Friday, January 29, 2016

6 Reasons Why I Love Charles Dickens

I'm reading Our Mutual Friend right now (for the first time, so don't tell me the end) and absolutely loving it. It's the first time I've picked up a long Dickens book for over a year, and I realized as soon as I opened it how much I've really missed him.

In talking with a friend about my various passion points, I went back and looked over an old list of books that were defining novels in my personal writing journey. Dickens featured in two of them (Little Dorrit and Great Expectations). Every time I pick up one of his works, I feel like the special fanship connection comes rushing back again. Since he's my favorite author, I thought it would be fun to write a post on just why I love his books so much.


The Humor
Dickens cracks me up constantly every.single.time. If you want humor, just read about Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's granddaughter--or Wemmick with his post-office mouth--Herbert and Pip trying to make sense of their bills when they're head over ears in debt--or Mark Tapley changing his name to Co and trying to kiss the landlady. Dickens has an uncanny knack for description and dialogue. It's not Wodehouseian, but it is both snark and whimsy by turns that I love.



The Characters
Characters are my thing. I love personalities, people, faces to put a name to, backstory that makes me cry and want to hug them. For being an introvert, I spend most of my reading time thinking about characters--which is kind of interesting. Dickens always has funny names, and characters that push the limits of brave, wicked, flawed, funny, and noble by turns. From Herbert and Pip to Esther and Lady Dedlock, I've never seen his equal for creating new literary friends that I love.



The Drama
I'm a drama girl (not in the queen way, I hope). I love a dramatic story, though. Midnight plans and snickering villains and carriage rides through the London docks--meeting girls on the steps, dancing in crowded ball rooms, kissing the hands of bitter brides in locked up rooms, and having strange dinners with a lawyer and his housekeeper. If you want excitement, Dickens is generous with it--though sometimes it may tug at your heartstrings.



Meaningful Society Commentary
Dickens wielded his words as a sword--they were part story, but mostly there to bring an issue kicking and screaming to the forefront of his reader's consciousness. He knew London society's temptation to be indifferent, to hide the cause of the poor and oppressed behind their gilded dinners and comfortable homes. So he used his novels as little revolutionaries that could make their way into drawing rooms and convict with needle-like precision. So far in the books I've read, he's tackled everything from the justice system, to orphans, to government policy, to inventions and trade, to forgiveness, heritage, family, and Society. He's a veritable bulldog of social reform, refusing to allow himself to be silenced in the face of indifference. Again and again he hammers issues, sometimes making direct asides to the real government in his narrative. He is thoughtful about the combination of justice and mercy in the narrative of human shortcomings, and for that I appreciate him.



The Length
I love a good lengthy book. I love a short book as well, but I love lengthy ones for two reasons: first of all, I get that much more page space with the characters. Secondly, it exercises my reading muscles, making them a lot stronger. Think of it like a weight set--if you only lift 10 pounders, you're not going to get strong very fast. But if you work up and consistently use 25 or 45 pounders, your mind is going to be stronger, more mentally fit, and exercise parts of your brain that the 10 pounders can't do. Do you need both kinds? Absolutely. But I like to keep lengthy books in my diet to keep my reading stamina up, and Dickens offers abundant means to do so.



The Movie Adaptations
Lastly, I couldn't leave a Dickens post without the reason that I love the adaptations. There is something about Dickens that most screenwriters stay faithful too--he's the golden storyteller, one they don't really mess with a lot except tightening and adapting things to screen. I've seen beautiful adaptations of Little Dorrit, Great Expectations, and Bleak House, and hope to add Our Mutual Friend to the list sometime this year. (I hear it's really good.) Film writers many times turn them into miniseries of love and drama, which is a win-win. Or, if you want a quick Dickens fix, you can generally find a short adaptation (the Jeremy Irvine or Ioan Gruffudd Great Expectations are great choices). They're a great period drama choice when you've run out of Jane Austens to watch. I marathon through Little Dorrit about once every eighteen months or so, and it's never grown old.

So there you have it! 6 reasons why I love Charles Dickens--and I think I've made myself a new series. We might have a few more articles like this about various authors throughout the year! :)


All illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne, in the public domain.

15 comments:

  1. Ahhh!! Yes, yes, YES! I whole-heartedly agree with this. I absolutely adore the snark-level in Dickens' writing. And I love how he could take any situation & make it humorous. (I mean, really--"post office mouth"?? That's gold!) And he writes excellent characters. Character development is a big deal for me.

    Thanks for writing this post & letting me fangirl over Mr. Dickens with you today!! <3

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    1. I love character development too. That floats my boat. :) Dickens has so many funny little quoteables that we used a lot when we were younger. Not to mention all the endearing lines too. We loved Joe Gargery's "what larks" in Great Expectations, and I think I have made muffled mention of Tickler now and then. XD

      I'm so glad you stopped by to fangirl with me!

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    2. Oooohhh... My dad dropped mention of the Tickler when we were younger. Gave me the creepies! Haha! :)

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  2. Yes, yes, and yes to all of the above!!! It took me a while to get into Dickens, but now I try and make it a goal to read at least one Dickens every single year. I love Dickens' humor and his wordplay in general. He never feels limited by grammar or dictionaries when portraying his characters. One of my favorite characters of his is Flora from "Little Dorrit". I love the way her sentences never have any punctuation--while reading her dialogue you can hear her running all of her thoughts together as she speaks.

    Oh and the adaptations...if I am honest, it's the movie/BBC mini series adaptations that convinced me to read Dickens in the first place. :P

    Dani xoxo

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    1. Flora's lines are brilliant in the book, and the actress who plays her pulls her off so well. I think Microsoft Word would curl up in exasperation over all the grammar rules he broke with her. XD Talk about the QUEEN of run-on sentences.

      I love Masterpiece Theatre's versions so much. I'm thinking Our Mutual Friend, much as I'm enjoying it, will benefit from the tighter, cleaner storytelling that a movie is forced to conform to.

      Good for you for reading a Dickens a year! Which ones have you read so far? I'm hoping to get out A Child's History of England sometime in the coming months.

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  3. Loved this post--I'm reading Martin Chuzzlewit for the first time. I enjoy Dickens, too. The humor, the crazy characters, the strange situations. I think my favorite adaptation is Bleak House (BBC 2005 version).

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    1. Martin Chuzzlewit is such a good one! I read it aloud with my mom and sister last summer--and incidentally, I saw Bleak House last year too! Love it. :) Hope you enjoy MC!

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  4. I think I'm going to like this series. ;D All your points were great, but I especially loved the social commentary & characterization points. He does an excellent job with both.

    And I can't wait to hear some thoughts on that Dickens book you got for Christmas. ;)

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    1. You should do a post in this series. :nods: About one of your favorite authors.

      I started that book today, and so far it's very good! And the BB-8 bookmark makes it even better. XD

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  5. I like your 6 reasons why you love Charles Dickens. :D I just started reading A Tale of Two Cities, and I'm enjoying it so far. I never thought about your point about his "issue-kicking" before. But now that I think of it, I see what you mean.

    Thank you for sharing, Lady Bibliophile!
    Love, Lizzy <3

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    1. Oo! I can't wait to hear what you think of it. I enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities.

      <3

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  6. I've only read two of Dickens' books-A Tale of Two Cities (which I loved) and Little Dorrit (which I also love, although I admit I love the miniseries more)-and now you make me want to sit down with a new book of his as soon as possible. :) Great list!

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    1. Both of those are wonderful books! I loved the fact that even though ATTC was so much shorter than his other novels, it was still characteristically Dickens. :)

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  7. I'm so glad you wrote this post! I've never read any of Dicken's books, but I'd like to read one this year - it's on my list. :) Which one would you recommend as a good introduction to his works? Sounds like there's definitely reason for me to try one! :)

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    1. Hooray! You won't regret it. :) I recommend starting with Great Expectations--it's long, but not quite as long as some others, and has great plotting, exciting twists, funny lines, and memorable characters. I'd love to know what you think of it!

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