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         Everyone’s position in life dictates what they can and cannot do, there are barriers to one’s actions. Charles Dickens lived in a troubling time. He grew up poor and even left school to work in a factory as a child when his father was imprisoned. Dickens’ experience greatly affected him and this can be seen in his books such as Oliver Twist and Hard Times. He discusses how poverty and social class limited the people and how their status affected them; he also discusses reality versus fantasy.          Dickens discusses the advantages of being wealthy and disadvantages of being poor. Social class and poverty is conveyed in his books and works. Dickens was “born on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, he was to become the most successful and influential writer of the Victorian period” (Cregan-Reid). His life as a child impacted him greatly which is what led Dickens to become a very powerful character in his era. His works make an impact, so much so his novels “are widely available and have been much studied” as they continue to influence people to this day.(Cregan-Reid). His books were just one way that he influenced the people of his time in order to reach out to a larger audience. Living a poor and fatherless childhood resulted in excess labor, ultimately forcing Dickens to dropout of school. As a boy, Dickens worked in a factory for several months. Factory life was such a traumatic experience for Dickens, so much that he never spoke of the factory again once he left (Cregan-Reid). Dickens did not want to end up like his father that was in prison, so he began to write and his “pathology of ceaseless work was surely driven by the need to stay out of the debtor’s prison and to stay out of the factory” (Cregan-Reid). Dickens worked as a child in a factory in order to support his family because his father was imprisoned for debt. Dickens shares an idea in his novels, that a child should believe in their own capacity to achieve their goals (Brackett). Though he suffered greatly from the hardships of life, Dickens first started being recognized by various London newspapers. His early success launched his career. His books made him known, “not only the novels, but the social position they enshrined–populist and anti-establishment–had made Dickens a hero of liberals across the world” (Callow). He influenced the people of London greatly with his novels, and was constantly looking for inspiration in everyday life.          Dickens visited America and hoped it would be a lot better than London yet the two places were quite alike. His visit there inspired part of Oliver Twist and Martin Chuzzlewit. He went to America to find something different to write about, however upon arriving he found that the two places were actually more similar than different. There were many reasons that made Dickens want to visit, the main “part of the reason that he was in America in 1842 was to renew and refresh his imagination by exposure to hitherto unexplored territory” (Callow). Charles Dickens wanted to visit America for inspiration, as well as to gain new ideas from a place he had never been before (Callow). He went seeking inspiration and got it, except it brought out the worst in him. It was Dickens “at his deepest, his darkest, his most unflinching, and to witness his genius surging into life in Martin Chuzzlewit is nothing short of thrilling” (Callow). It was from his journey to America that an entire novel and part of Oliver Twist were made.          There are bibliographies that all have different information about Charles Dickens’ life. Much of the information varies and needs to be credible. Given information at the time that Dickens lived in, such as the poor laws and workhouses, it is easy to see where he got much of his inspiration for his books. The sources include criticism of some of his works and sources that show disagree on what Dickens was arguing in his books. These sources can give more information of Dickens and incite on him. These all convey different opinions that people have on him.          Like many authors, Dickens expresses what he sees and how he feels through his books. A book that really emphasized his thoughts, as well as his childhood, is Oliver Twist. It is seen how Oliver reflects Dickens because “Oliver searches for his own identity and for hope and purpose in life, and yet one in which all the most forceful scenes are of guilt, loneliness, and betrayal” (Timko). The diction that Dickens uses to describes London provides a visual image of this time period. Oliver Twist addressed many important problems of its time such as child labor and the criminal underworld (Timko). One could even see themselves living in this time era. A person’s instinct is to survive and to do what is best for themselves and this was portrayed a lot in Oliver when he struggled to find stability but persevered. Dickens’ focus in Oliver Twist was to paint a picture of London and how it was for a person to grow up there and to show everything that it represented. He could relate to most people because Oliver’s story is just like many children in London that grew up poor. And it was the same situation for Dickens when he was child. It represents Dickens because much of it was similar to his own life. Often times people do not see Oliver Twist as one of his serious books because it is one of his earlier books and “is often cited as an entertaining story published before his later, more ‘serious’ novels” (Timko). It talks about the theme and ideas that are represented in this book. As well as the concept of good versus evil that was shown through the use of three major characters.          Mr. Brownlow is the character who represents good. His fiance died before they got married, yet he is not a bitter man. He is a character that is pure and believes in people and does not think they are all bad. His opposite, Fagin who is considerably evil, is a criminal. He trains kids to pickpocket people and corrupts them. He tries to do this to Oliver which is why he played a major role in Oliver’s story. Mr. Bumble ran the workhouse where Oliver grew up at the first nine years of his life. He was an important character at the beginning of the story and later on because he always had a soft spot for Oliver. Oliver’s mother, whose name is revealed as Agnes Fleming later, had an affair with her father’s friend and from that came Oliver. He dies in Italy and she dies after giving birth and Oliver is left an orphan. In another one of the books he wrote, Dickens talks about an additional topic that highlights the difference between the wealthy and the poor.          In this book that Dickens argues about the battle between logic and imagination. The book, Hard Times compares the real world to the world of fantasy. Dickens used characters in his book to represent what is real and as opposed to what is fantasy. He made a character that was a product of the system of society to show what is real. And he used the protagonist to show imagination.          Thomas Gradgrind is a character in Hard Times. He is a wealthy merchant who believes in rationalism. This is the character that lives his life only believing what he can see. Probably representing many people of the Victorian era who seriously criticized much of his work. Dickens claimed that these narrow minded people lacked imagination. Gradgrind had two children that he never allowed to have an imagination, continuing a cycle and creating more people like himself that were dull. Dickens “immediately reveals the harsh contrast between the undesirable, although necessary, world of ‘fact’ versus that of ‘fancy'”(Brackett). His son grows up to because just like his self-interested father. Yet, his daughter grows up feeling and realizing that there is something that is missing in her life. She ends up marrying a man that is twice her age and is more like her father than she would want. She eventually realizes that she cannot live this way and cries to her father Gradgrind. Seeing this, Gradgrind realizes the flaws in his philosophy of rationalism and self-interest. He now understands his errors, but it is too late for them. He and his children live lonesome and unhappy lives. While Sissy Jupe, a girl that Gradgrind took under his wing but was not raised but him, lives a happy and fulfilling life. Here Dickens could be arguing that imagination is important factor to living because Gradgrind’s family all were raised with the philosophy of rationalism and were self-interested and ended up miserable. The attitude and lifestyle of Gradgrind’s family made them almost mechanical. They were wealthy and had all they wanted. But they only cared about themselves. Dickens himself “disliked any organization and his promotion of the value of individual responsibility in its purest form” (Brackett). Sissy, who had different ideals than them, was happy. He argues that fantasy is just as important for a person as fact. This is shown through Sissy Jupe. She grew up with the circus and was full of fantasy, but Gradgrind took her in and gave her guidance providing her with a balance of reality and fantasy.         Dickens wrote about reality versus fantasy in many of his novels. Dickens wrote fantasy novels because many of the characters he created had outcomes that could have been his own. Much like what he realized, in his books the “hero comes to realize that even the longest train is not doomed to travel in the same direction forever”, which is why Dickens envisioned many of his characters’ lives as his own (Douglas-Fairhurst). Dickens’ early fiction explored his characters’ lives the most because it was closer to his childhood and because at that period in his life many things were uncertain. This is why “Dickens’ interest in lives that are stymied or knocked off course was more than theoretical, it was personal” (Douglas-Fairhurst). Thinking about the possibilities of what life had in store for him affected him greatly, “he remained obsessed by ‘what might have been and what was not’ and his fiction teems with characters who are granted the power to change their lives” (Douglas-Fairhurst). His many novels represent his life and his characters represented lives that he thought he could have had (Douglas-Fairhurst). His childhood sparked his imagination because it was as a poor child of London that his mind began to create all of these stories. These were all ideas that he could envision himself living in,  but there was only one result in the end that proved to be true. Marking the fine line between reality and fantasy.          Dickens himself was very limited of what he could do as a child. He was a poor child, which greatly narrowed what he could accomplish. He was just like many others who grew up in the Victorian age. He grew up poor, worked in factories, and was mistreated. His attitude was what made him persevere. It did not matter that he was poor or that his father was in prison, he was determined and that’s what mattered. He climbed his way  up the social ladder by writing. Soon through his novels, he became very wealthy and influential during his time. He was able to do this because of fact and fantasy. His imagination lead him to be very successful and happy but it was fact that gave him guidance because there were many advantages he got when he came up in social class.


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