Features of Victorian Novelist in Charles Dickens

Also Read

      Introduction. The Victorian era was a period when the British were at the zenith of their imperial supremacy in the community of nations. Flourishing trade in the international market and the possession of a colonial Empire where the sun never set had made the people confident of the supremacy. The merits and demerits of such a society were truly reflected in the literature of the period, especially in the novels.

      Entertainment of the Middle Classes. The affluent middle-class society wanted relaxation and entertainment that would not jeopardize the prevalent ethical conceptions and moral standards. Initiated by Fielding and Smollett the general traditions of the Victorian novelists were to cater to the tastes of the middle classes and humor their moods and whims. Some intrigues they welcomed but they also expected a happy conclusion of the novel with the hero and the heroine getting united in wedlock with the hope and expressed desire of living happily thereafter. This compulsion necessitated the sacrifice of high standards in the artistic development of the themes in the novel. The conventions of the Comic Stage and the so-called heroic romance got extended to the Victorian novels as well. A frank discussion of sex was not tolerated. Hardy was taken to task for taking some liberty in this matter. Dickens's novels had this typical feature in plenty. Victorian novelists in general are famous as good story-tellers. Dickens was the best storyteller among them. The improbability in the plot was not taken seriously by the reading public. The general readers of the monthly installments of entertaining fiction wanted to be kept in suspense in the intervening period. They eagerly waited for the subsequent issues and also for the events to be depicted therein. Dickens had that quality in plenty with which he got the attention of the readers riveted to his writings from the first sentence to the last.

      Diverse Moods. The Victorian novelists were very famous for their ability to adapt themselves to the circumstances admirably. Their readiness to combine realism with fantastic nonsense is only second to their eagerness to fuse thrills with theoretical digressions. Appealing to the people of different tastes and moods would have been impossible without this quality which Dickens had in plenty.

      Humour Backed with Imagination. Almost all Victorian novelists had the quality of real humourists though each one had his own style of humor. Charles Dickens was very particular in creating characters with a touch of peculiar humor. Creative imagination sustains the humor till the end of the story.

      Dramatic Situations. The original world that exists already is transformed into a new one though the foundation remains unchanged. Creative imagination gets full play in creating dramatic situations and picturesque incidents. While describing geographically famous cities and villages Dickens does not fail to employ his imaginative faculty to the utmost. Though he creates something new the original is not lost sight of. Facts of life presented as such are no good from the point of view of readership appeal. Dickens never forgets this aspect that goes into the making of successful novelists. A somewhat grotesque imagination is made use of by Dickens for the purpose of exaggerating the eccentricities of his special creations and projecting their odd characteristics. Less than lifelike they may be, but no one can deny that they are lively to the utmost.

      Breadth of Vision sans Probing into the Depth. No Victorian novelist has successfully delved into the depth of his characters' minds. But in breadth of vision, he is second to none. A panorama of the entire society is painted detailing the success and development of every one of the characters. The Victorian novelist is not satisfied by merely asserting the fortunes of individual characters.

      Some Glaring Defects, (i) Over emphasis on intrigues. The swindling intrigue of Uriah Heep, the systematic misappropriation of the funds of his benefactor as well as the voluptuousness of Steerforth are cases in point in David Copperfield. A number of characters and incidents are loosely threaded together by means of these intrigues.

      (ii) Melodramatic features. Truly pathetic situations are rare in Dickens's novels except in some extraordinary cases. The reason is his over-zealousness and tendency to over-do things. He looks up to foreign elements for the purpose of heightening pathos. Ridiculous exaggeration also plays havoc; little Emily's elopement and the consequent disaster would have been better appreciated otherwise. Superfluous additions of many minor characters who have nothing to do in the matter of the furthering of the plot constitute another weakness of Dickens.

      (iii) Omission of some important aspects. Love is not portrayed in Victorian novels with the necessary description of the physical aspect. Subhme discussion of religion and philosophy, aesthetics and arts, poetics and statecraft etc, have been conspicuously ignored in Victorian novels. Dickens's works are no exception.

      Thus Dickens has the weaknesses as well as the strong points of a typical Victorian novelist.

Previous Post Next Post