While the overwhelming majority of readers and only slightly fewer critics have embraced Charles Dickens for over a century and a half now, I have not always been in agreement. Over time, this has changed and I’ll offer a few thoughts on why.
1. As a younger reader, I found Dickens exceedingly wordy, and in some parts of books, namely Bleak House (one of his books that I could never manage to finish), bordering on unreadable.
2. I now understand and can appreciate that most of his novels were serialised and that yes, the ‘column inch’ did matter a lot, I spot more richness and nuance in the writing than I did in my teens and early twenties.
3. I have a much greater appreciation of Dickens’s understanding of the vulnerable, unemployed, and working-class poor. Dickens wanted his contemporaries to see the underbelly of urbanization, industrialization, and unchecked capitalism. Obviously this continues to resonate in the twenty-first century.
4. While I still find much of his writing overly sentimental, I acknowledge that Dickens likely wanted readers to overidentify with the lives and predicaments of his larger-than-life characters, to evoke greater responses.
5. His influence cannot be denied and should be celebrated. A Christmas Carol, Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, and openers – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” from A Tale of Two Cities have left indelible imprints. These imprints transcend literature and have become significant in films and the everyday vernacular of people in the West.
I would love to know if anyone else has had a change of mind or heart over time about Dickens.