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date: 20 April 2024


The Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens
Malcolm AndrewsMalcolm Andrews

In 1863 a writer in one of the more popular Victorian magazines asked the rhetorical question: ‘Is not our own time distinguished from all that have preceded it by the intensity of its interests in and regard for children?’ Victorian literature, painting, and photography all bear witness to the fascination with childhood in this period. There is no doubting the intensity of this interest, but the reasons for it are complicated and elusive. The idea of childhood in Victorian culture is a knot of contradictory attitudes. The children in Dickens's novels, in all their vivid range and variety of types, reflect both the cultural complexities inherent in the contemporary view of childhood as well as the effects on Dickens of his own troubled childhood experiences. We need to understand something of the cultural and historical status of childhood in this period as well as the nature of Dickens's perception of his own childhood in order to appreciate the kind of fictional children he created and the purposes they served in the larger design of those novels.... ...

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