Charles Dickens Short Fiction Analysis
Although most readers associate his name with novels rather than short pieces, Charles Dickens began his literary career with short fiction, and he never entirely grew away from it. In Sketches by Boz, the collection of his first literary work, readers find sketches and short stories that braid together the realism and fancy that mingle more naturally in Hard Times, Little Dorrit (1855-1857), and Great Expectations (1860-1861). The sketches, such as “Seven Dials,” “The Election for Beadle,” and “A Visit to Newgate,” offer a subjectively perceived picture of real people, places, and events: As Dickens informs his reader in the last of these three pieces, “We took no notes, made no memoranda, measured none of the yards. ” Instead, “We saw the prison, and saw the prisoners, and what we did see, and what we thought, we will tell at once in our own way.” Thus, the sketches offer readers reality filtered through a consciousness that a reader of the novels will identify at once as distinctively Dickensian. In contrast, the short stories, such as the melodramatic “A Black Veil,” are imitations and read like what they are, an apprentice writer’s attempt to purvey the gothic eeriness and jailyard gloom that proved eminently marketable in the 1820’s and 1830’s.
When the astonishing success of the Pickwick Papers (1836-1837) launched Dickens as a novelist, he was still relying heavily on the tactics of...
(The entire section is 2313 words.)
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