Dickens and the importance of childhood

Dickens inherited this Romantic view of the importance of childhood perception, but dramatized it within the social world of the early nineteenth century:

  • Dickens' childhood experience, which included such episodes as the time he spent in the blacking factory, his life alone while his father was in debtor's prison and the neglect of his education, made him very aware of the vulnerability of childhood
  • he often created children, like Oliver Twist and David Copperfield who were at the mercy of cruel and scheming adults
  • he was very conscious of thestigma that society places on children, often at birth (as with the orphan Oliver)
  • he also noted that, by the demands of society and family circumstance, children were often forced into adulthood much too early: his novels are full of children who either have to take care of their parents or must fend for themselves in the absence of their parents
  • he believed strongly in the value of childhood, not simply as a time when children acquire education, but also as a time when theyare able to play and exercise their imagination
  • he also placed much value on the perceptions of children, and although his two first-person narratives, David Copperfield (1849-50) and Great Expectations (1860-1), are recollected by their narrators in adulthood, he accepts the validity of his characters' childhood perceptions.
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