Known for having a broad variety of works, Charles Dickens gained the attention of Victorians by writing in a way that appealed to the “simple and sophisticated” as well as from “the poor to the Queen” (Charles Dickens 2). His most popular novels include A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Together, these works helped give Dickens the reputation of being one of the greatest English novelists of the Victorian era.
Born on February 7, 1812, Charles was the second oldest of ten Dickens children. His father, John, worked as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth. John was a well liked man who held a steady job that should have provided enough money for him to successfully support his wife and children. Due to John’s upbringing as a member of a well-to-do family, he never acquired the skill of successfully managing a smaller income. Freely spending a majority on lavish items such as fancy clothes and good food and wine, the money he brought home diminished quickly. Charles’ mother made decided to help alleviate the debts that John had obtained as a result of his frivolous spending habits. Elizabeth hoped that by establishing a school where students paid tuition would help with the debt and attained a larger house in which classes would be held. Lacking money for rent, supplies and furniture, the school never became a success and in the end, cost more money than it made.
With his mother’s failed attempt at making money, the Dickens family’s debt only grew larger and Charles was forced to work in a Blacking Factory that was owned by their family friend, James Lamert. Although the work wasn’t too straining, Charles was appalled by the conditions he was forced to work in. He described the factory as a "crazy tumble-down, old house abutting on the river ... literally overrun with rats" that "resounded with the squeaking and shuffling of the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars" (Shephard 49). Charles had never been more unhappy than when he was working in the factory. He hated everything about the job-from his constantly black stained fingertips to the overwhelming stench that radiated from every inch of the wretched building. As a child, Dickens always had an interest in bettering himself and his life through education but his occupation at the factory began to crush any hope he had of ever being successful. When asked of his experiences in the factory he states that "no words can express the agony of [his] soul ... as [he] sunk into this companionship, compared these every day associates with those of [his] happier childhood, and felt [his] early hopes of growing up to be a learned and distinguished man, crushed in [his] breast" (Shephard 51). The experiences Charles had in the factory became some of the darkest of his life and some of the themes of his novels arise from these miserable working days.
Christine Krueger addresses Dickens’s “concern for the powerlessness of children” (3) and this theme is...