Readers of Charles Dickens' journalism will recognize many of the author's themes as common to his novels. Certainly, Dickens addresses his fascination with the criminal underground, his sympathy for the poor, especially children, and his interest in the penal system in both his novels and his essays. The two genres allow the author to address these matters with different approaches, though with similar ends in mind.
Two key differences exist, however, between the author's novels and his journalism. First, humor, which is an essential element if many of Dickens' novels, is largely absent from his essays recommend specific medicine. However, as this paper will suggest, the author's reluctance to directly call for parliamentary action in his earlier works of fiction has been shed by the time he writes his last complete novel. The indirect approach of his early works is apparently a victim of Dickens' dissatisfaction with the pace of reform.
In an essay entitled "A Walk in a Workhouse," published May 25, 1850 in Household Words, Dickens describes his Sunday visit to a large metropolitan workhouse, much like the one in which Oliver Twist lived for some time. In this essay, the first similarity to his fiction the reader notes is Dickens' apparent scorn for clergy. For example, in a remark that reminds readers of The Old Curiosity Shop of Kit Nubbles' experience fetching his mother from Little Bethel, Dickens notes that the sermon delivered at the workhouse "might have been much better adapted to the comprehension and to the circumstances of the hearers" (Philip and Neuberg 106). Adopting the sharp humor that marks his fiction, Dickens says sarcastically of Little Bethel ...
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Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. London: Penguin Books, 1985.
Dickens, Charles. Our Mutual Friend. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveler and Reprinted Pieces. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. Nearly 40 essays by Dickens originally collected in 1861 and subsequently expanded.
Philip, Neil and Victor Neuberg. Charles Dickens A December Vision and Other Thoughtful Writings. New York: The Continuum Publishing Co., 1987. A helpful collection of 10 essays by Dickens with accompanying explanations by the authors. Essays are followed by relevant passages from Dickens' novels.
Tryon, W.S. Parnassus Corner A Life of James T. Fields Publisher to the Victorians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1963. Includes brief references to Dickens, particularly his American speaking tours. Not useful with respect to his journalism.
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