Little Dorrit

I must admit I quite like Charles Dickens. Somehow his fiction invokes a true Christmassy kind of feeling

Daniel F. Gerhartz (American, 1965-) ~ The Garden Window

Daniel F. Gerhartz (American, 1965-) ~ The Garden Window

and a general idea of hopefulness and coziness within me. Although Little Dorrit is one of his “loose baggy monsters” (as Henry James called long-winded Victorian novels) it didn’t affect my pleasure while reading this book. Little Dorrit seems to be a Victorian version of the rages-to-riches story and narrates the life of young Amy Dorrit who was born in the debtor’s prison as her father was incarcerated there for so long that all three of his children have grown up there. Yet through the help of Arthur Clennam the Dorrit family discovers that William Dorrit is the only heir to a large fortune. Although all are rejoiced by their new-found wealth, Little Dorrit is reluctant and wary of the changes that this new fortune brings to her family and their circumstances. Especially since she has fallen in love with Arthur, who now, according to her family, is below their standards. Arthur has, meanwhile, his own mystery to solve, namely the riddle his father told him on his deathbed by giving him a watch with the words “Your mother”. Despite their new-found wealth, the Dorrit family quickly looses it because of their involvement in fraudulent dealings by Amy’s sister’s  father-in-law. Arthur, by his inquiries into his families past discovers that his, so believed, mother is actually his step-mother and his biological mother has died of grief as a result of her separation of her son and husband, by her husband’s forceful uncle. Yet stricken with remorse this uncle creates a fund for the daughter of Arthur’s mother music-teacher, who turns out to be the childless Frederick Dorrit, which means that the fund goes to Amy Dorrit, Fredrick’s niece. Who as expected eventually is reunited with Arthur and lives happily ever after.

As expected of any Dickens novel the plot is vast and complex but eventually makes sense. I still haven’t described half of it, but I will leave that for yourself to find out while reading this book. I quite like Dickens’ long, dense novels once in a while, despite the usually obvious romantic connections and the obligatory impediments that they have to face and Little Dorrit is no exception to this. The only problem I have with the novel is that the main protagonists, in this case Arthur and Amy, are at times to good and virtuous to be true which gets on my nerves every once in a while. Still I throughly enjoyed reading this book, no the least because of the numerous comedic figures in this book. Dickens is well-known for the caricatures characters in his works and, personally, they make his books much more enjoyable.

Despite the caricatures and good ending, Little Dorrit is written as a satire on the shortcomings of government and society, especially regarding the socially outcast and the pretences of the higher society in which the Dorrit family finds themselves. I like this combination of comedy and socially commentary and it’s one of the reasons that I like Dickens’ novel. All in all, just as the other Dickens’ novels I’ve read I really like this one and will probably reread it somewhere in the future.

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