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Charles Dickens was deeply affected by his father's poverty and bad luck. He had an unhappy childhood that haunted him for the rest of his days. He was forever in pursuit of the perfect family, as he imagined it. Since no one could live up to that ideal, he was constantly miserable. Dickens was a hard man to get along with, and his troubled life is easy to judge. He did not always make the best choices in his personal life, but he was concerned for the poor and downtrodden for his entire life, and he was a catalyst for many important social changes. He left a lasting legacy not just in his novels but in his example. You can make a difference, and you can get people to care.
Charles Dickens came from a family that suffered bankruptcy and was unable to establish themselves financially, partly because of Dickens's grandfather embezzling and escaping conviction by fleeing the country. Nonetheless, Dickens novels all equate monetary gain for its own sake with the worst of accomplishments. Additionally his novels make an appeal for relatives, well-wishers and friends to come to the rescue of suffering families and share wealth, at least with the children, as in Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, so that at least they won't suffer the fall-out of adult failures in the financial world.
Two of Dickens' strengths as a writer are his humor and his ability to twang the emotional heart strings of readers. Contemporary readers consider this sentimentality; and sentimentality is out of fashion in the contemporary world. Another great strength is his ability to manipulate the English language writing sentences that perfectly intertwine multiple thoughts with one sentence stretching on for an entire paragraph. This remarkable skill is also out of fashion in the contemporary world.
Dickens was married but he and his wife became estranged from each other, perhaps because the fame of his books dictated a heavy traveling schedule for him. They were separated and he carried on a liaison with actress Ellen Turner during which time he wrote A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and Our Mutual Friend.
As you can probably tell from his subject matter, Dickens had first-hand experience with being poor, having a father in debtor's prison, and working as a young child in a factory. These themes turn up in many of his works. For a good overview, see the attached link.
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