Thursday, 29 March 2012

Dickens tackles social issues (I)

At our first TOCS reading group meeting today, we talked (among many other things) about the fact that Charles Dickens used his novels to address specific social problems - and that the awareness his novels created often led to the solution (at least partially) of these problems. In Oliver Twist (1838 - full text and Kindle here), one of Dickens's most famous works, he describes the ghastly living circumstances of workhouse labourers. As a boy, Dickens of course spent time in a workhouse himself, while his father was in the debtors' prison - a horrible experience which influenced this author's work greatly.

British historian Ruth Richardson has just published a new book called Dickens & the Workhouse: Oliver Twist & the London Poor (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Photo: Celebrating Dickens 2012

In this book she describes her discovery of the actual workhouse Dickens worked in as a child, and the building's astonishing proximity to a residential house Dickens lived in for years. See her enthuse about her discovery in this video clip:

(full version here)

or read about her petition to save this historical workhouse from demolition here. (It worked, by the way, and the building was saved.)

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