What is the significance of Dickens's humour?Great Expectations

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His ideas were those of the inchoate and insular liberalism of the ‘thirties. His unique force in literature he was to owe to no supreme artistic or intellectual quality, but almost entirely to his inordinate gift of observation, his sympathy with the humble, his power over the emotions and his incomparable endowment of unalloyed human fun.

So writes one biographer of Charles Dickens who composed some of his humorous characterizations for the purpose of comedic relief from the melancholy tale of orphans, defeated old women, abused children, and ragged convicts.  In addition, he wrote humorous sketches as entertainment for his monthly audiences such as Mr. Jaggers's little clerk, Wemmick, with his mouth like a "post office," a delightful character who talks to the plants at Newgate Prison, and who sets off a cannon for his Aged Parent.  The ridiculous Belinda Pocket, consumed in her book of titles, whose servants have a banquet in the kitchen and whose maid must dive over her in order to rescue her children from certain death, provides much humor, as well.  Yet, while this comedy is entertaining, it also serves a purpose for Dickens, the social reformer.  His sketches of Mrs. Pocket and the pompous and envious Uncle Pumblechook, for example, satirize the rising middle class of Industrial England that envied and aspired to what Dickens considered a frivolous aristocracy.

From Dickens, the tragedy of human life is revealed to readers in the novel's most farcical elements. The scene, for instance, of Miss Havisham walking about the table on which a wedding feast has laidso many sad years ago serves in its parody of a cake and bride and toady guests to point out the injustice of the criminal aristocrat who has swindled the decadent aristocrat while at the same time it points to the sycophantic and avaricious relatives who come in the hopes that Miss Havisham will die and leave them their inheritance.  By defying accepted rules of writing narratives with his delightful, sentimental, and satiric humor, Dickens transcended the limited sphere of the Victorian novel.  As one of his biographers has written,

[Dickens] produced books to be enshrined henceforth in the inmost hearts of all sorts and conditions of his countrymen, [while at the same time] he had definitely enlarged the boundaries of English humour and English fiction.

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Great Expectations

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