George Orwell once said of Dickens work: It is not so much a series of books, it is more like a world. In this book, J. Hillis Miller attempts to identify this world, to show how a single view of life pervades every novel that Dickens wrote, and to trace the development of this view throughout the chronological span of Dickens career. There are full critical analyses of six of the novels "Pickwick Papers," "Oliver Twist," "Martin Chuzzlewit," "Bleak House," "Great Expectations," and "Our Mutual Friend" and shorter discussions of many of the others. Each novel has been viewed as the transformation of the real world of Dickens experience into an imaginary world with certain special qualities of its own.Certain elements persist through all the novels, the most important of which are the general situation of the hero at the beginning of the story and the general nature of the world in which he lives. Each of Dickens heroes begins his life cut off from other people, in a world which seems menacing and unfriendly and, on the social side, composed of inexplicable rituals and mysterious conventions; each lives, like Paul Dombey, with an aching void in his young heart, and all outside so cold, and bare, and strange. The heroes then move through successive adventures in an attempt to understand the world, to integrate themselves into it, and thus to find their true identity. Initially creatures of poverty and indigence, those characters reach out for something which transcends the material world and the self, something other than human, which will support and maintain the self without engulfing it. Within the totality of Dickens' novels this problem the search for selfhood is stated and restated, until, in the later novels, the answer is found to line in a rejections of the past, the given, and the exterior, and a reorientation toward the future and the free human spirit itself as the only true sources of value.With a real understating and sympathy for his subject, Miller manages to transport us into the midst of Dickens world and to bring alive for us the whole strange and wonderful tribe that people his novels. This is an enlightening, well-written, enjoyable book for anyone who has ever had an interest in Dickens and his work."
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(210mm x 140mm x 29mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
This is a study of the artist's consciousness rather than the artist himself and, in following the progression of his novels, follows the development of Dickens' imagination, his changing vision of things as the real world is translated into this imaginative world. The discussion centers around each book, with sometimes a grouping acting as a bridge to the next publication: ?? Papers, Oliver Twist: Nicholas Nickleby and The Old Curiosity Shop and Bar??by Rudge: Marlin Chuzzlewit; Dombey and Son; David Copperfield; Bleak House, Hard Times and Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities: Our Mutual Friend; Great Expectations, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, are examined minutely, precisely, for their literal expressions of the pattern that went from Victorian picaresque to the theme of the outcast who searches "for status and authentic identity" so that he may "escape through his own efforts". Bleak House is here judged to be the "watershed peak of Dicken's career" in which the act of will is effected, while Little Dor?? is accisimed as his finest work along with Our Mutual Friend. This is an exacting dissertion of primary interest to Dickens' scholars rather than to his fonder readers who may feel that, while the operation is successful, the patient dies. (Kirkus Reviews)
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