Ami asked:

A lot of reviewers have called this book "Dickensian." What is it about The Goldfinch that reminds everyone of Charles Dickens so much?

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Todd Abused orphans; see also: the ineptitude of civil servants. Attention to class/social status. Exaggerated characters. Wordiness. Similarities to actual Dickens characters, and even at least one recycled name (Pip sound familiar to anyone?). Unrequited Love That Will Not Die or Even Diminish. Ever. A shambling plot that spans a lot of time. Repeated use of the word Bailiwick.
Jennifer Bowers Dickens's books were very long, b/c he was paid by the word -- many of his novels were serialized in magazines before they were published as books. Donna Tartt was probably not paid by the word, but she has written a novel of Dickensian length. It was about 200 pages too long. At page 500/718 I was ready for the resolution and felt like, "Get with the point already!"
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell I called it Dickensian in my review because of the way that Tartt explores the underpinnings of the various classes in the U.S. Dickens wrote on the wealthy, the poor, the young, the old, men, women, children. He wrote about cruelty and kindness, and sometimes the two sorts of acts were committed by the same person. The characters in The Goldfinch are flawed, but their flaws make them seem more human. I think the existential aspects of Tartt's writing will make this a book people can still relate to centuries from now, just as we can with Dickens now. Both authors, in my opinion, manage to capture the triumph of the human spirit. :)
Sarah Nichols I suspect that folks who use the that term have never read Dickens! It is a long book like many of Dickens' works and the plot also relies on coincidence. But Dickens uses the English language masterfully to spin ripping good yarns. Tartt is just long-winded and her story has no narrative payoff.
Amber I don't disagree with any of the other answers, but I'd call it Dickensian for a much simpler reason- both Dickens and Tartt seem unable to stem the verbal spewing that makes every page, every scene, so ponderous. I was thinking, "Get with the point already!" well before page 500-- I was thinking it from the very first chapter. It's a major factor I can't stand about Dickens, and one of several reasons I didn't care for The Goldfinch. I did love the ending though-- I just wish I didn't have to hack my way through a 700-page thicket of words to get there.
Pat Burns If you have ever read Dickens I'm surprised you would ask this question. Aside from the length of the novel she employs many of the Dickensian themes throughout - orphans, critique of the classes, tragedy, story told over many years and coincidence. The main character - Theo Decker - is an obvious homage to David Copperfield and his journey throughout the novel is similar in many ways. Tartt even names a character "Pippa." This is meant to remind the reader of themes of Great Expectations as well.
Macy Mckay Dickensian because of the wide ranging cast of characters, and long timeline. The story told by through a child (Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield).
I'm only on page 200 but the Pippa/ Theo relationship has strong echoes of Pip / Estella in Great Expectations. Hobbie and Boris are Dickens like in their being larger than life key characters who lead and develop the child.
I'm expecting a shattering of delusions and big reveal about characters in the last chapter simply because it is so Dickensian already.
Andrea Is this a serious question? It's because it follows the entire plot structure of David Copperfield. With the exception of the end of The Goldfinch, every circumstance in DC has a corollary in The Goldfinch, and so does nearly every character. During the last bit of The Goldfinch, Theo seems stuck in the frame of mind that David had when his marriage to Dora wasn't turning out as he had hoped. I wonder if Tartt is saying that our lives are more complicated than in Dickens' time, so a neat resolution is not possible, or if she thinks it is more interesting to use these other characters in Theo's life to reflect on the best way that we can face life's circumstances. I wonder if the book's resolution appealing more, presumably, to the modern reader than Dickens' resolution means that we are more, or less, evolved than the Victorians.
Luca Besides "Great Expectations", the novel reminds me of another more American "Great" -- "The Great Gatsby". Theo's con-jobs and the dealings with a criminal underbelly echoes Gatsby's, and these shady dealings form a slow rot that eats away at the finery...A tribute to vanitas painting indeed.

The aha moment for "The Goldfinch"'s ties with "Great Expectations" came kind of belatedly, when I was musing on the name, "Pippa", which echoes "Pip" from Great Expectations.

1) Cinderfella bildungsroman, beginning in childhood and ending in adulthood, with fluctuating prospects along the way
2) Dealings with crime
3) Theo's orphaned state
4) Theo's numerous surrogate parent-figures, of both the lousy and good varieties (former: Theo's father, Xandra; latter: Mrs Balfour, Hobart, Welty, for the latter)
5) Pippa / Kitsey + Theo echoes Estella + Pip (impossible loves, cold loves, etc)
6) Structurally, the novel opens with quite a literal bang, smack in the middle of a crime scene (echoing the scene at the beginning of Great Ex re: the police patrols and Magwitch)
Sandy Dickensian compare seems fair, but I would say Dostoyevsky comes to my mind, The Brothers Karamazov, in particular.
Barbara Newhall I think it's because it's about a young person who is -- rather hopelessly -- placed into impossible circumstances beyond his control. Which is why I don't enjoy Dickens and am mistrustful of this book. I, along with the protagonist, feel so defeated right from the get-go.
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Shawn Croteau Words, words and more words.
Eric Maas Did anyone consider yet, that:
Theo Decker stands to Donna Tartt
David Copperfield stands to Charles Dickens
Susan ok it is too wordy in places. It does have a close resemblance in structure to several dickensian novels and yes I have read most of them albeit a long time ago. I did have to stick with it in places but it was a 21st century version bringing similarities and differences. I too like the aspects of painting and antiques brought to this book. I also felt informed by the internal torments of Theo using drugs to deal with his pain and loss. But above all I know that I will reread the last chapter again carefully. Something I rarely do with modern works
noteworthy Also all of the overt references she makes to Charles Dickens and specific books, like Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, etc, etc, etc
Caz Monet I have to agree with Sarah's comment. I don't even consider Tartt a post-modern Dickens, and I wonder if Donna Tartt would appreciate the Dickens comparison? Dickens wrote beautifully rounded narratives with their twists and turns and well rounded 'endings' for, if not all, the majority of his characters that would appeal to his readership of the day (several of his novels were published first in magazines, I think - though I stand to be corrected). That's not to say how a novel should be, especially not the modern novel. I generally enjoyed The Goldfinch, though I got terribly bored during the middle section (that's a reflection of my (approaching-)middle-aged intolerance of self-indulgent teenagers.
Brenda Church Very slow and are living the moment in both Dickens and The Goldfinch. And I agree with Nenia Campbell's remarks about the characters being both flawed and likable. Enlightening, and thanks!
Linda Marye I find it like Dickens because you just have to relax and get into the world of the novel. Like life, you can't rush it. I love the detail, I love the big questions and I love all the characters.
Marie I can understand it because many Dickens characters are lost, forgotten, abused and out of step with the communities around them. Through no fault of his own, Theo is essentially a child on his own, getting into many unusual situations, operating on the fringes of normalcy with society. I've not finished the book yet but it seems that his relentless spirit keeps him on his feet and resilient which is like some Dickens characters. I hope the conclusion maintains this and I am not disappointed in the end.
Dee It's the very extensive descriptions - full of all the senses, small visual details, sounds, smells, feelings, ambiance, even memories. Putting small children into tough situations is also Dickensian (as well as reminiscent of other authors).
Dsmed When I started reading the book, I was also reading 'Sketches by Boz' and also had recently read 'Bleak House'. I hadn't gotten into the characters or the plot, yet I made a comparison to Dickens to my friend. I felt it was in the use of language and the construction of sentences. Tartt crafts her sentences and her descriptions beautifully. She has a mastery of the English language as Dickens or Hardy did. (See pages 476, 524, 574 for some of the beautifully crafted longer sentences that I recently read. Or page 25 for some a mix of medium and shorter descriptive sentences. These were a few I highlighted on my Kindle.) I was also comparing the writing to Hardy who I read two novels right before 'The Goldfinch'. Hardy, too, does not get to the point, but he, too, crafts some great sentences and descriptions.
Mr. Andy It's rife with shades of Great Expectations, but hardly "Dickensian." Overrated. It's Dickensian or John-Irving-ian because of the length... but most of the length could be cut and it wouldn't harm the story.
skketch Because there are too many words and redundancy. Dickens was paid by the word and for me, even before reading the reviews calling it Dickensian, I wrote in my book journal that it was like Dickens in the number of words. I even commented to my daughter who recommended the book, that I wondered if she was getting paid by the word. After the blast at the museum, she went on and on about his head, his fear, the smells, the environment, etc and it got tedious. Okay, there was a blast and he was stricken by it. I get it. You don't need page after page talking about it. I think it could have been about 300 pages less.
Hilary Donovan I suppose because it's long and the protagonist is an orphan for all intents and purposes. But you know I so much prefer Tartt's modern language to Dickens' difficult 19th century language. I could picture everything in The Goldfinch--I felt as though I were there with Theo. I just recently reread the first page of David Copperfield and now I remember why I found it so hard to get into. I could keep rereading those first few paragraphs forever and I'd still be saying, "Huh?"
Terri Dickensian in its length and epic span. Hobie as the benefactor, Theo as the orphan Pip or Oliver Twist (take your pick), and Pippa as a nice Estella. Similar themes of rags to riches, unrequited love, class distinctions, etc. Will The Goldfinch stand the test of time as a classic novel, Not so sure......
Rose Joyce I think because it is a long book,Characters recede and than reappear .There are many coincidences in Dickens novels and in this one as well. There are definite despicable characters and affable avuncular types in Dickens novels and this book , as well as beautiful and soulful heroines .
Murrill When I think of Dickens the term "episodic" comes to mind: He was, after all, the author of the first soap operas that appeared in weekly newspapers. Tartt tells several stories in this book, but I think each is less definitive than Dickens' approach: Hers do not necessarily stand alone, and the common thread is apparent from the onset. That said, she has written an epic piece, just as Dickens might have done, and she confronts social and moral ambiguities. I enjoyed Tartt's book, but she drifted into overly descriptive passages that nearly lost me at times. The painting was Theo's ticket to immortality: As long as he had it, he said, he felt that way. He had what others wanted, what no one knew he possessed, and so he was special. Perhaps that had something to do with his self-destructive path; he did not think of himself as mortal. It was in letting go that he began to make amends and to take responsibility for his actions.
Charlene Way too long with excessive detail that doesn't further the plot.
Naomi The redonkulously unnecessary length.
Sara So very very long, just like Dickens. I decided I can't rate this book because while it was entertaining it just didn't go anywhere. I kept checking the corner of my Kindle where it tells you how far you are in the book and it never seemed to move. At about 55% I just gave up. We were never going to go anywhere. The story had leapt 8 years into the future and Theo was still fucking up, and now he was fucking up so that his beloved mentor - the only adult that had a positive loving influence on his life besides his mother - was now getting dragged into the muck. I just couldn't anymore. But I sure tried!
Rae Ells My only thought on that is what a massive insult it is to Charles Dickens to compare his works to this pile of steaming refuse.
David Bullock Absolutely nothing
Hristos Dagres There is ABSOLUTELY nothing in this book that is even close to be considered as "dickensian". Unless, somebody has only read Dickens in abridged, graphic-novel form.
Mark Rabiner The weight of the book and the size of the type.
John nothing Dickensian about it. Compare a chapter of it to any Dickens work. No comparisons spring to mind.
Ryan Maybe because it resonates Great Expectations through Pippa and Theo.
Tlanci Exploration of classes; similarities and differences among the relationships within them. Diversity and similarity in seemingly immensely different settings. The orphaned feeling we all carry.
Mary Mckee
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Samarth Bharadwaj I too would call it Dickensian for how American it is. I personally, was also reminded of Camus' Stranger. Felt intimate but also disconnected with the protagonist.
Melissa The book has many similarities to Great Expectations. They both involve something happening to a boy in his childhood that then affects his entire life. In both, they fall in love at a young age with a girl who they never get. They both explore a long period in a young man's life, picking up details given far earlier to continue on that track a while. However, I don't know if Tartt intended it to be Dickensian. I think she more likely meant it to be like a long, complicated Russian novel, but I could be wrong about that.
Deidre Bjornson Claiming The Goldfinch is Dickensian may be because of the corruption of young Theo, his vulnerability as an orphan child, and his struggle in the belief that he was "unwanted" by anyone but his dead mother. Similar to many of the young characters in Dickens' novels - for example Pip, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist...
Sylvia Swann-Levkoff Dickensian in many ways, the degree of detail in the settings and objects for one. Dickens give us enough details to clearly envision the people and places we're reading about. Tartt does the same. Like Dickens, she has lots of interesting characters that we have to figure out; who's well intentioned and who are the bad guys. Also like Dickens, we are looking at class and the various social stratum. The New York setting lends itself beautifully to this because it requires such a large spectrum of classes. Last but not least, we have our young protagonist who's scraping and scrabbling through these people and places. He's on his own trying to find his way.
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