Social Reform in The Novel David Copperfield

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      Introduction. Mistakes are to be corrected. Malpractices must be curbed. Injustice must be put to a stop. In short, all the evils should be eradicated. This is what any sane man would crave for. No man willingly courts inconvenience and misfortune, nor will anyone continue to suffer if he knows how to ward off suffering. Unfortunately many in the world do not know what they miss in the world. They suffer, and accept all the suffering because they are helpless. People at the helm of affairs in any society must feel the pulse of the laymen. They must find out what is wrong with the society. They must find out ways and means of reducing suffering of the people and bequeath happiness to them. All writers are expected to be social reformers besides being entertainers. Whereas remedies brought about by harsh deterrent punishments may not lost long, the amelioration effected through mild reproval, veiled insinuations and persistent appeal to the good sense of the people guilty of offense are definitely found to be permanent. Novelists of the caliber of Dickens work wonders in society by being saviors in disguise and guides in the grab of entertainers. We may read the novels of an author like Dickens only for amusement, but our heart and brain do not stop our moral conscience from being provoked to the utmost. In short we willingly submit ourselves to a shock treatment.

      Dickens's Aim to Reform Society. A writer worth his name cannot remain calm and serene. He must expose the social injustices of the privileged classes towards the less fortunate members of the society. Deliberate effort to rouse public conscience against every sort of evil is his duty. Dickens was a good storyteller but even a better social reformer. He entertained people but at the same time, he used his works to make his readers conscious of many unpalatable facts that plagued the society of his day. His smiling face was a mask for his audacity to sermonize and the bitter pills he sent down their throats were all adequately sugar-coated. It was thus that Dickens sought improvement in the horror-infested conditions in jails and factories. The ignorance that reigned supreme in the vulnerable sections of the people, and the injustice they submitted to in factories, schools and other areas of great importance, were utterly exposed by the novelist, not with vehemence, but with a ring of sincerity.

      Social Unrest. The tiny island in a corner of the world, namely England, had the peculiar pleasure of ruling over the waves and founding a vast empire. This prosperity and martial glory brought in its wake a lot of unrest as well. Problems of poverty and squalor in the midst of plenty were at the root of this unrest. It became Dickens's self-imposed task as a humanitarian to work for the relief of women and children. The Fagin and the Artful Dodger were painted by him, not to get sadistic pleasure but to bring home to the people the fact that they themselves were the cause for their problems.

      Dickens's Novels as Criticism Society. Wilberforce, Peel and Bright openly worked to spread humanitarianism and therefore social reform. How capitalists exploited ill-clad and ill-fed workers was thoroughly exposed by Dickens in his pioneering efforts as an advocate of humanitarianism through the medium of fiction. The downtrodden and oppressed unlettered masses found a well-wisher in him. He held a mirror in front of the complement people of the society to reveal to them all was not well in their small island despite the industrial revolution and colonial might. His Oliver Twist revealed the horrors of the workhouses and sternly pointed an accusing finger at the ruthless officials of the administrative machinery. The corrupt system of elections and delayed justice has found daring exposure in his Bleak House. The faulty education system all over England is adequately revealed in Nicholas Nickleby. Maladministration of education in the so-called public schools is mercilessly exposed in David Copperfield. Salem House and Creakle were the creation of faulty administration by those who were responsible for the well-being of the public. The fate of the so-called Breakers of Law who was thrown in prisons finds an adequate description in Great Expectations. That the snobbery of the sophisticated classes of the society can work havoc on the poorer sections is clearly exposed in Little Dorrit.

      Artist and Propagandist. In spite of his zeal for all-round reform in society, Dickens did not sink to the level of a mere propagandist He remains an artist of keen insight and sound craftsmanship. His compassion for those who suffered had a peculiar tenderness in it Therefore there is no tinge of a patronizing tone in his work. Sanity of thinking was sweetened by fun and humor and the main aim was never lost sight of.

      Imagination not opposed to the understanding of realities. A novelist or a poet should not live, in an ivory tower. They should strongly uphold some public cause? Humour, satire, etc. can be used as side dishes alone and not as the main fare. This is amply demonstrated by Dickens, a writer with a mission and purpose. His deliberate effort to see that his fellow citizens enjoyed life in the manner it should be, needs our commendation.

University Questions

Discuss Dickens as a social reformer in David Copperfield.
"Dickens was that rare type of reformer who could moralize with a smile on his lips, and mix his sermonic powers in such an excellent jam that his contemporaries did not realize for a while that he was doctoring them for their good." Discuss with reference to David Copperfield.

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