Friday, January 17, 2014

Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit

Of the fifteen Dickens novels listed here, I am familiar with about half. Some of the stories I read in high school. Studying Great Epectations with Mrs Dysart made such an impression on me that even today, when, for whatever reason, the book comes to mind, I still see the same mental image that I saw so many years ago -- old Miss Haversham, in her faded, tattered wedding dress, sitting in a dark room with her cobweb-covered wedding cake nearby, embittered over the man who had jilted her at the altar.

I asked my son if he read any Dickens in his high school English classes. No, he said, he never did. What a pity!

Most of my familiarity of Dickens novels, however, comes from seeing them in movie form. And that's how I met Amy Dorrit, by viewing an eight-hour mini-series, made for TV and produced by BBC and WGBH Boston. The story was originally published in 19 monthly installments of 32 pages each and two illustrations by Phiz, a famous English artist, appeared between 1855 and 1857. It is a work of satire on the shortcomings of the government and society of the period.* Much of it takes place in London's Marshalsea, the debtor's prison, where Dickens' own father had been imprisoned when Dickens was a child. In Little Dorrit, Amy's father had been at the Marshalsea for years and Amy herself was born and raised there.

But poverty is not the only state of the Dorrit family through the course of the story. They come into a great fortune, and we watch as each member of the family has his or her own response to that wealth.

Little Dorrit extends quite beyond the family to a host of characters who bring the story to life. I found every episode to be captivating and every actor to bring out the most absurd or nobel traits, as the case may be, of Dickens' memorable characters.

One thing this mini-series has inspired me to do is to read Little Dorrit or some other of Dickens' work. Apart from A Christmas Carol, I don't think I have opened one of his books since those days in high school.

Since writing the last sentence I've put two of his books on hold at the library, Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend. I'll let you know how the reading goes! In the meantime, if you have any Dickens favorites, let us know. And if you watch Little Dorrit, let us know what you think.



Robin said...

I loved Little Dorrit! Both the miniseries and the book. But my favorite Dickens novel was Bleak House! SO very good and the miniseries is really good, too. Esther is so sweet and I just love the sweetness of her and Ada. Such a good book that really reveals, like Little Dorrit, an aspect of the legal system in Victorian England. I highly recommend it.

Ginger Kauffman said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Robin! I've heard of Bleak House but know nothing about it. I'll check into it!