What Impact Did Charles Dickens’ Novels Have on Victorian Society?

I know Charles Dickens' works were hugely popular in Victorian England, but what lasting impact did they have on society and culture at the time?

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Charles Dickens enjoyed enormous literary success in Victorian England and his novels had significant impacts on society, potentially more than any other author of his time. Here are few ways how the narratives he told shaped Victorian society: Social Reform: Perhaps the most notable impact Dickens had on society was his ability to illuminate the harsh realities of the socio-economic disparities of his time. Through narratives such as 'Oliver Twist', 'Hard Times' and 'Nicholas Nickleby', he portrayed grim realism of street children, workhouses, and industrial squalor which led to increased public awareness and subsequent social reforms in areas such as child labour, education and public health. The Power of Sympathy: Through his memorable and vivid characterization, Dickens also managed to evoke deep sympathy for the plight of the poor. Characters like Tiny Tim in 'A Christmas Carol' helped to humanize the face of poverty and encouraged greater generosity and kindheartedness among the Victorian public. Christmas Traditions: Dickens is also noted for his influence on the modern conception of Christmas as a time of family, goodwill, and philanthropy. His beloved story 'A Christmas Carol' promoted these ideas which resonate deeply even in today's celebration of the holiday around the world. Critical View of Institutions: Dickens' pointed criticism of institution— courts in 'Bleak House', the educational system in 'Hard Times', or various bureaucracy portrayed in 'Little Dorrit'—also had significant impacts. His work led to increased scrutiny of these systems, inspiring discussions that eventually drove legal and administrative reforms. Literary Impact: From a purely literary perspective, Dickens contributed significantly by popularizing the serial publication of narrative fiction, a format that allowed his stories to reach a wider reading public than ever before. His literary style, involving unforgettable characters, intricate plotlines, and a unique blend of satire, humor, pathos and social commentary, has set a high bar for novels that followed. So, Dickens’ novels were not just popular literature of the time, they were culturally, socially, and politically provocative pieces that forced readers of all classes to confront the realities of Victorian England in ways that they had not before, enacting lasting change on various aspects of society.
Answered on September 7, 2023.
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