You may have seen that Yvette Prior and I are running a small Little Dorrit challenge. The challenge runs from today, June 9 (Dickens passed away on June 9, 1870) and will run until Sunday, June 13. You can join by writing a post about the book and linking to any of mine or Yvette’s posts about it. Your posts can be about anything at all – what you though of the book, a review, talking about the writing style, about the characters, about humor, about satire, about what you liked, about what you hated or anything else that comes to mind.
This post is to get things started with a few facts about the book.
Little Dorrit was originally published in serial form between 1855 and 1857. The story is set in London in 1826 and features Amy Dorrit, aka “Little Dorrit”, the youngest child of her family, born and raised in the Marshalsea prison for debtors in London, the same place where Dickens’ father was imprisoned in real life. Arthur Clennam encounters her after returning home from a 20-year absence, ready to begin his life anew. (paraphrased from Wikipedia) In many ways Arthur is the real “main character”, not Little Dorrit, but she is the center of attention.
Dickens was always a crusader for social justice, but in ways Little Dorrit was his largest, most personal attack in that direction. It is a great critique of (at that time) Britain’s lack of a safety net for its citizens. It went on to be a great satire about class and class relations, the stratification of society, government bureaucracy (the “Circumlocution Office” was created to show How Not to Do It – i.e., how to prevent anything from being accomplished), treatment of industrial workers (medieval peasants had much, much better lives that Victorian industrial workers) and pretty much everything that he saw wrong with society of the mid-19th century. Imprisonment, both literal (the first chapter is in a prison, and much action is in the debtors prison, Marshalsea) and figurative, are major themes with almost every character being held in the prison by England’s rigid and strict social structure.
A side note about that last sentence – I was shocked when I read Oliver Twist that at the end Oliver’s aunt marries a very rich man, an ultra-successful barrister and a member of the House of Lords, but he is forced to give up literally everything to marry a woman whose sister had a child, Oliver, out of wedlock. What?!? And Dickens doesn’t make a big deal about it, except to show how strong their love is… There are class divides in Little Dorrit that artificially force people apart, but this time Dickens does take aim at these stupid cultural divides.
If you haven’t looked, this is a big book! It is very long and often long-winded. There are many subplots, and in typical Dickens fashion, all of the main plots and subplots are intertwined. And, as is typical with Dickens, except for the handful of main characters, all of the characters are almost caricatures and you can guess everything about them just by name alone, such as Tite Barnacle, nephew of Lord Decimus Barnacle and senior official in the Circumlocution Office.
The main characters, though, are well drawn and rounded characters.
Do you love Dickens? Does this sound interesting? This is an invitation to join! Everyone who posts and links to one of mine or Yvette’s posts about Little Dorrit will be put in a draw for an Amazon gift card.
I plan on doing a post about my thoughts towards the end of the challenge.