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One of Charles Dickens’ most personally resonant novels, Little Dorrit speaks across the centuries to the modern reader. Its depiction of shady financiers and banking collapses seems uncannily topical, as does Dickens’ compassionate admiration for Amy Dorrit, the “child of the Marshalsea,” as she struggles to hold her family together in the face of neglect, irresponsibility, and ruin. Intricate in its plotting, the novel also satirizes the cumbersome machinery of government. For Dickens, Little Dorrit marked a return to some of the most harrowing scenes of his childhood, with its graphic depiction of the trauma of the debtors’ prison and its portrait of a world ignored by society. The novel not only explores the literal prison, but also the figurative jails that characters build for themselves. 

Let's set the scene...

I promise... the bell is about to ring.  With this... we get to leave Dickens behind.  At least for a little while.

Teacher: Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Little Dorrit, all major influences on Leo Tolstoy. Tomorrow we will focus on. . .


My thoughts:

As writers are always instructed to "write what they know", Charles Dickens seemingly took this little tip to heart.  His life can be found in snippets throughout all of his work.  The people he encountered throughout his life's journey and the places he called home are spotlighted in all of his books.  However, this is never more true than it is in his writing of Little Dorrit.  Set in the infamous Marshalsea debtors prison in London, we are introduced to a man forced to raise his family within the prison walls.  In reality, John Dickens (father to Charles) was arrested as a debtor and imprisoned with his entire family in the very prison William Dorrit spent his life.  Except for Charles himself.  At 12 years old, Charles was forced (to his chagrin, as he considered himself a young gentleman in the making... much like his character David Copperfield) into manual labor at a local factory to assist in paying for his family's upkeep.  Like Amy Dorrit, Charles too had a sister named Fanny who had the pleasure to study music while Charles was stuck performing menial tasks to keep his family fed.  This time in his life was the catalyst for Dicken's unending interest in the social class system... and this interest was greatly showcased throughout all of Little Dorrit.  His sheer disdain for the "haves" is apparent in the way he writes them to be one-dimensional and selfish, whereas the "have-nots" are warm, compassionate and the ultimate heroes of this tale.


Beginning in December of 1855, the story of Little Dorrit was gifted to the masses in monthly installments.  The book was released in 19 installments for a shilling.  The last installment (released in June 1857) cost two shillings as it was a double issue.  Like an old-world comic book, readers often swarmed incoming ships carrying the latest edition... desperate to hear what happened next to their favorite characters. The man sure can keep people's attention!




Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?

As a chef, Sookie is constantly trying to take care of her loved ones... whether it be by a bowl of The Magic Risotto or a warm hug.  I see a lot of Little Dorrit in Sookie and believe she would fully relate to giving up your life for family and friends.

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