Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Dickens on Social Class
Charles Dickens' protagonists are almost always solid, hard-working middle-class types, such as would appeal in the Victorian reading public. Excepting Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, none of his novels has a central working-class hero or heroine. Even Oliver is found to come from solid stock in the end, and Pip is taken far beyond his lowly origins.
What his novels express above all, though, is the distaste the new aspiring middle-class have for traditional elites; either narrow in vision, like Sir Leicester Deadlock in Bleak House; predatory and treacherous, like Sir Mulberry Hawk in Nicholas Nickleby, or foppish and stupid, like Sir Mulberry's friend, Lord Frederick Verisopht. Even Steerforth, whom Dickens’s treats with a degree of sympathy in David Copperfield, has a languid and amoral quality that the author always associates with a certain kind of decadent upper-class seducer.