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Little Dorrit
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Archive 2018 > September 2018: Little Dorrit

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message 1: by Nina (last edited Aug 29, 2018 11:54AM) (new)

Nina | 449 comments Hello fellow readers! This month we are reading Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. Please give your comments in this thread. If you think your comments may have spoilers for other readers, please do use the spoiler tags [(view spoiler)].

Summary from Wikipedia
Little Dorrit is a novel by Charles Dickens, originally published in serial form between 1855 and 1857. The story features Amy Dorrit, youngest child of her family, born and raised in the Marshalsea prison for debtors in London. Arthur Clennam encounters her after returning home from a 20-year absence, ready to begin his life anew.

The novel satirises the shortcomings of both government and society, including the institution of debtors' prisons, where debtors were imprisoned, unable to work, until they repaid their debts. The prison in this case is the Marshalsea, where Dickens's own father had been imprisoned. Dickens is also critical of the lack of a social safety net, the treatment and safety of industrial workers, as well the bureaucracy of the British Treasury, in the form of his fictional "Circumlocution Office". In addition he satirises the stratification of society that results from the British class system.

Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today.

Born in Portsmouth, Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms.

Dickens's literary success began with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for his humour, satire, and keen observation of character and society. His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication. Cliffhanger endings in his serial publications kept readers in suspense. The instalment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience's reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback. For example, when his wife's chiropodist expressed distress at the way Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield seemed to reflect her disabilities, Dickens improved the character with positive features. His plots were carefully constructed, and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives. Masses of the illiterate poor chipped in ha'pennies to have each new monthly episode read to them, opening up and inspiring a new class of readers.

Dickens was regarded as the literary colossus of his age. His 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris, is his best-known work of historical fiction. Dickens has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell, G. K. Chesterton and Tom Wolfe —for his realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism. On the other hand, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing, and a vein of saccharine sentimentalism. The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.


Gisela Hafezparast | 116 comments This is my least favourite of the Charles Dickens books, as I think his the Victorian view of women and Dicken's own patronizing attitude towards women comes through the strongest in this book. I have read a couple of Dickens biography and whilst he can be said to have done quite a bit to show the appalling conditions poor women lived in and clearly felt sorry for them and tried to do something about it, in his own family he was very much the patriarch and treated especially his wife appalling at times.

This said, it is a brilliant book, clearly showing the issues of the times and the language as usual is beautiful. Real tear jerker at the end as well.


message 3: by Jo (new) - added it

Jo (asenath61) | 3 comments Hello, I've been around awhile, but haven't participated in a read yet. Is there a reading schedule, so many chapters per week?


message 4: by Nina (new)

Nina | 449 comments Hi Jo, welcome to the group read! We don't have weekly reading schedules. Everyone reads at their own pace and can put thoughts, questions or comments here. This also means to be mindful and hide spoilers for others that might not have read a particular part of the book yet. Happy reading and looking forward to your thoughts and comments!


message 5: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen (karenbess) | 23 comments I still have to get my hands on a copy as I really want to participate. Will comment as soon as possible. Thanks!


message 6: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen (karenbess) | 23 comments I am just starting Chapter XIII now. I did enjoy what I have read so far learning about Little Dorrit and her family's plight, but now find the long descriptions of neighborhoods & government red tape to be a bit tedious. I have put this down a few times and think I'm losing track of characters. Maybe I have forgotten what Dickens writing is like or maybe I'm not in the right frame of mind. I might have to pass on this for now and try it another time. I wonder if others have felt this way about the book or if there's a trick to reading Dickens.


message 7: by ☯Emily , moderator (new)

☯Emily  Ginder | 772 comments Mod
Dickens is a very tedious writer. I have not read Little Dorrit, but I have found much of his writing to be long-winded and confusing. His cast of characters are endless and you need a directory to keep track of them. I have had some success if I can find a condensed version of his books!

I did think that A Tale of Two Cities was less long-winded and I did enjoy that book.


Gisela Hafezparast | 116 comments ☯Emily wrote: "Dickens is a very tedious writer. I have not read Little Dorrit, but I have found much of his writing to be long-winded and confusing. His cast of characters are endless and you need a directory to..."
Interesting. I can see where you are coming from, sometimes some parts are difficult for modern readers. What you need to remember when you read Dickens is that he wrote these books as chapters for his satirical paper for a Victorian audience, who could sometimes despite their reputation for prudishness be quite adventurous. Sometimes his characters can be for modern taste a bit farcical, but that was partly because Dickens needed to entertain his audience and partly because his books, including Little Dorrit, are social criticism and I imagine, this is how the general Victorian audience managed to take it in. He wrote for a living, having to earn money for himself and his large family through these publications.

What I find difficult in Little Dorrit, is that his macho Victorian opinions are shining through a lot. Unlike in his earlier books, where I think he was still much more open to women and their opinions, for me Little Dorrit, is a bit the book of an older patriarch. Around this time, he left his wife of 20 years and ca. 10 children for an actress, so bit of midlife crisis might have influenced this as well.

Having said all this, I love his language, but admit you have to get into it. I find it sometimes quite poetical and really, really moving. I also find him very funny.


message 9: by ☯Emily , moderator (new)

☯Emily  Ginder | 772 comments Mod
I have found many of Dicken's women are completely unrealistic. They are caricatures, showing them too good to be true or horribly wicked. It is obvious Dickens did not appreciate women or understand them.

Contemporary authors also wrote long books, like Anthony Trollope. However, Trollope's portrayal of women was much more nuanced and accurate. I would read a Trollope book any day over a Dickens book.


Gisela Hafezparast | 116 comments ☯Emily wrote: "I have found many of Dicken's women are completely unrealistic. They are caricatures, showing them too good to be true or horribly wicked. It is obvious Dickens did not appreciate women or understa..."
Agree, but to some extend all of Dicken's characters are caricatures as they featured in his satirical magazine "Sketches by Boz". If you look for instance at the Pickwick Papers, they guys are also totally "overdrawn", but when you see what the tried to point to and considering that he needed to keep his readers on side (who looked for some fun from their paper in their dreary lives), they are great.


message 11: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie Furseman | 1 comments I find Dickens description of Mr Pancks hilarious! Anyone else see some humour in Mr Pancks?


Gisela Hafezparast | 116 comments Melanie wrote: "I find Dickens description of Mr Pancks hilarious! Anyone else see some humour in Mr Pancks?"

Absolutely and also an example of not judging people without full knowledge of their circumstances.


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