Coming to the Orwell board for the first time I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a whole section dedicated to his Dickens essay. Orwell's essay on Dickens is probably the best explanation of Dickens that I've ever read, and shows that Orwell's insight was not limited to political and social matters but extended to literature as well. A few of my favorite highlights from his essay: - Orwell describes Dickens' outlook on life (as represented in Dickens' writing) as: "If men would behave decently, the world would be decent." A perfect synopsis of Dickens, I think. - Continuing somewhat in the same vein as the above quote Orwell says of Dickens, "...he would not regard a battlefield as a place where anything worth settiling could be settled." - Again, along the same lines as the above quotes, Orwell is describing Dickens as someone who is not a 'political activist' in any sense of the word: "It seems that in every attack Dickens makes upon society he is always pointing to a change of spirit rather than a change of structure. It is hopeless to try and pin him down to any definite remedy, still more to any political doctrine. His approach is always along the moral plane,...Useless to change institutions without a 'change of heart' - that, essentially, is what he is always saying." - Describing Dickens on the whole (in a paragraph that gave us one of Orwell's most famous phrases) he says that Dickens' face: "...is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry - in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls." (The 'smelly little orthodoxies' line is the one I was referencing.)
The discussion of Dickens Christian Spirit
Since Pip is a child, Joe has been ¡°a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easygoing, foolish, dear fellow¡± to him for a long time, and Joe is also the light and warmness in his dark and cold world. It seems Pip is very content with his status quo for he gets enough recognition from whom he loves and cares about. However, when he begins to get in touch with two totally unfamiliar worlds with his own£one of which is represented by Miss Havisham and Estella, symbolizing money and power, and the other is represented by Mr. Herbert Pocket, standing for knowledge and dignity£ namely, he begins to frequently get involved in the complex relationships with strangers, his little world of peace is broken. While standing in front of those strangers, with his intimate friend Joe¡¯s lack of sociability when speaking to them, Pip feels ashamed and embarrassed, though he loves Joe. It is because of the frequent and sudden changes in relationships between people, which symbolize a change in the society, that he is lost and falls into fear and confusion. Nevertheless, that he feels uncertain and instable is in the line with the psychological features of the Victorian period, which is induced by the change of society. His dissatisfaction with status quo arouses his desire for a new recognition and ambition for happiness in a strange world. He denies his present self and even his friend, Joe, because he wants to free himself from the shadow of the past and be able to freely embrace the great expectations in his imagination. Therefore, the spirit of the Victorian period£striving for recognition£is gradually emerging before us, with Pip¡¯s adventures and changes.
According to the whole story, Pip is not the only person striving for recognition in the novel, but also the other characters around him in diverse ways. Though Miss Havisham is a misanthropist, she is keen on recognition from Estella, who is becoming colder and colder, while the proud and ruthless Estella wants to get a new position by marriage to Drummle in order to escape from the world built by Miss Havisham. Joe tries to be accepted by the changed Pip. Herbert Pocket pursues his happiness in the business world, which is changed every day. All of the characters in this novel divert themselves to different ways. But one thing is similar that they are striving for recognition£a kind of new position for themselves£in the changing society.
However, the last phase of transition in Pip¡¯s life should be paid attention to. Why does Pip finally head to overseas to realize his dream as a real gentleman after so many adventures? Because in the last stage he does not live for others, but for himself, that is to say, he strives for recognition of himself so that he can come to be a changed person he longs to be and find a proper position in the new world.
Generally speaking, Great Expectations is profoundly concerned with the spirit of striving for recognition in the Victorian period. It seems that Charles Dickens wants to conduct people rightly, who are lost in this period through the story of Pip. However, depending on the ending of the novel, it can be easily summed up that a person should not live as a social animal, who blindly wants to get recognition by other, but lives as an independent person, who lives for himself, finding a proper position in the world, and at last can be recognized by both society and the individuals.
Though it's long in length, Geroge Orwell's commentary is interesting. He has a sharp and concrete view upon the works of Dickens. He seems to hold a knife and cut sharply open the nut of "Dickens" ---- you may cry to yourself,'Oh, what a surprising side of Dickens!' It's what I feel now. Really good essay.
I'm pretty sure this is an essay rather than a book Chris, did you just include it as a book because it would not fit in the 'text' field in mysql and didn't want to switch to 'longtext'?
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