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Title: Charles Dickens before 1850, with special reference to the child figure in 'Barnaby Rudge', 'The Old Curiosity Shop' and 'Dombey and Son'
Author: Giddings, Robert
Awarding Body: Keele University
Current Institution: Keele University
Date of Award: 1973
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This is a study of three of Dickens' early novels which all contain a centrally important treatment of a child figure. The aim has been to demonstrate how Dickens uses the figure of the child to explore the deep changes in life, in society, in human relationships in the early 19th century and to show he created an imaginative prose vehicle, part fantasy, part dream, part emblem-symbol, adequate to present his comment and vision of early Victorian England. Emphasis is placed on the continuity of Dickens' work, in an attempt to erode the contemporary tendency to divide his work into "early Dickens" and "late Dickens". The opening section is intended to show how important the child-figure is to an understanding of Dickens' art, and that Dickens uses the child-figure both personally and collectively: that the child-figure means a great deal to him because he carried permanently with him the intense memories of his own childhood, and also because he uses the child-figure and operates on the level of the collective archetypal subconsciousness, and uses the child as an emblem of man lost in an alienated world which is grown indifferent to him. The next chapter discusses the importance of the modern city as the major scene of Dickens' narratives. The following sections are an examination of The Old Curiosity Shop which begins with a discussion of the moment when it appeared: this is followed by a detailed treatment of the figure of Little Nell which stresses her 'divine child' characteristics. This section concludes with a discussion of the other main character and elements in the novel as well as the use of pastoral theme. The sections on Barnaby Rudge begin with a discussion of the political elements in this novel and the political movements current during its composition. Then follows a detailed account of the use Dickens makes of the figure of Barnaby. The section ends with an examination of the mob and the various leading figures in this novel, and the relation between the social and the family themes. A short chapter, Christmas, New Year and 'Dombey', underlines the important links between the Christmas Books and Dombey and Son and leads on to the section The Anatomy of 'Dombey', which deals with the complex of elements which make up that masterpiece of Dickens' early maturity. A consideration of the profoundly important use of the figure of Paul and Florence follows and the dissertation concludes with a pulling together of the main themes of Dickens' work in the decade which ended in with the composition of Dombey and Son. Throughout the study the attempt is made to draw attention to the cohesiveness of Dickens' imagination, by a detailed interest in Dickens' symbols and emblems - stars, animals, water, time-pieces - which give his vision that haunting and impressive wholeness. There are three appendices which deal with Macready's production of King Lear, which probably influenced Dickens' creation of The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge, with the songs and ballads used to present Dick Swiveller and lastly with the main financial scandals and swindles of the time.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature