Dickens. The name is so familiar to me, and yet so entirely mysterious. After this last semester, I am left with so many questions I can ask–and answer–about writers. I wrote how many papers on Austen’s life and works? So who’s to say I can’t–or shouldn’t–do the same with good ol’ Charlie Dickens? In fact, I just might, some day. Charles Dickens is hands-downs one of my favorite authors, and I’ve only read two of his books. That’s part of my summer reading assignment for myself; read more Dickens. So far…I haven’t had time to get to him. I’m still working through The Hunger Games, as I said in this post. But anyways.
Dickens was fantastic. He wrote of the times, and not only that, but of the lower class in his time. He showed the wealthy that the poor were suffering, showed how the hunger-stricken were struggling to survive. He showed the powerful as mostly corrupt, living in luxury while others lived meal to meal. For some of the poorer people, meal to meal meant going hungry for a day, two days, sometimes longer. Most people relied on gin palaces for comfort; gin palaces provided people with gin, which was basically concentrated alcohol, for pennies. It was cheap and high in alcohol content, and most of the lower class lived on it. Water was expensive then; no one could just turn on a tap and let cold water flow. They had to get their water from a well–which would usually be protected, and people were charged for using it–or from the rivers and lakes in the area. Those lakes and rivers and ponds, however, were filthy. You only drank from them if you wanted to get some horrible disease and keel over. Seriously. So people would buy gin, clean and cheap, and they would addict themselves to it.
Most families raised their children on gin. It was so cheap, milk and water so expensive, that sometimes the only liquid people had was water. Children were raised by alcoholics as alcoholics. It was a vicious cycle, and the people running the gin palaces made a lot of money off of poor drunkards.
Dickens revealed that culture, showed how horrible it was to live with it, and wrote of heroes, average people trying to change something. Sometimes, his heroes are less than average; in A Tale of Two Cities, for example, his hero is a drunkard, not exactly poor but not wealthy either. He may not intentionally change things, but change he does. It’s wonderful.
So here’s the question; The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Have you heard of it? It’s his unfinished mystery. His last work. Dickens died while writing it. The story was set to come in twelve monthly installments in a paper or magazine. He had three published before he died; he left the materials needed to map out three more sections. With only half of the story written, Dickens fans were left, clinging to his last story and wondering what the ending was to be. We’re still wondering that, in fact. I plan to read The Mystery of Edwin Drood someday and come up with my own ending to the murder mystery. Perhaps I’ll come to the same ending Dickens did, but we’ll never know.
His brilliance, however, astounds me. How awesome would it be to become the Dickens of our current age?!