Today is a big day for many present and former English majors. It’s Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. What is the big deal, I’m sure you are asking?
Take it from someone who despised Dickens back in the day. I didn’t want anything to do with his novels in high school. Honestly I don’t think we read anything but “The Christmas Carol”. I just didn’t like his style – the way he told a story even though I honestly think I never read any of his stuff. Somehow in my mind, he was this boring author whose stories were predictable and boring.
Then I went to college and I read “Great Expectations”. I consumed this book…I couldn’t put it down. I was so intrigued by his turn of phrase and his characterization of Pip and Estella. I felt at times that I knew Pip – that he could be a friend. Many times I even laughed at his descriptions of other characters in the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In graduate school, I read “Oliver Twist” and again I was taken aback by his descriptions. I felt for Oliver and so enjoyed every scene in which the Artful Dodger appeared. It was really good reading (much like Les Miserables now, by the way). Sometimes predictable but nonetheless very satisfying nonetheless.
I have also read “The Pickwick Papers” which I admit to chuckling at a lot more than I expected. There are many of his novels that I still have to read. I think he’s so important because he’s influenced so much of what we love today. His novels were the written form of reality television…every week we are hooked in to see what Bob or Jim will do next. Sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s sad. In addition he’s the master of the cliffhanger. For the readers during his time, they had to wait for the next installment to know what happened. So he knew how to create suspense and tension so that readers would continue to read.
Granted there was no television at the time so people didn’t have too much else to do. But he also was one of the first writers to make money writing. To so many writers out there, we owe him a lot. If he hadn’t paved the way and shown that it was possible to make a buck pitching a story, most of us wouldn’t be here blogging or writing or a lot of things!
Thanks so much for your creativity, Mr. Dickens. I’m happy to know you (via your novels).