Is Dickens too dramatic?

For the past two Tuesdays, I have participated in the Charles Dickens Month hosted by Fig and Thistle.  The host of this event has asked us to share something about Dickens on each Tuesday of this month to celebrate his upcoming 200th birthday on February 7th.  You are free to post anything as long as it relates to Dickens.  I am using this opportunity to also meet one of the requirements of another challenge that I am participating in this year.  The Classics Challenge, hosted by November’s Autumn, is different from other challenges that I have joined.  On the 4th of each month, the host will provide a prompt about the current book that you are reading and asks you to respond to this prompt during the current month.  Since the year has just begun, the first set of questions is about the author.   Also, there are different levels of questions and you can decide which questions to respond to.  I like the flexibility.  I have selected to answer the questions from Level 2, which are:

What do you think of their writing style? What do you like about it? or what would have made you more inclined to like it? Is there are particular quote that has stood out to you? 

Currently I am reading Oliver Twist for the first time.  I am almost halfway through the novel, so this answer will not be complete but will have to suffice for now.  One thing that I love about Dickens’ writing is how he draws me into the story.  Even though in Oliver Twist, I can sense that something bad is going to happen to Oliver, and I have a feeling that Dickens will put this character through the wringer on many occasions, I still feel myself getting sucked into the emotion and torment of the character.  Dickens has a reputation for being overly dramatic at points and I can agree to this on one level. However, his skill of pulling me into the story brushes aside his dramatic flourish and makes me want to continue with the story to see what will happen next.  While reading his novel, I feel like I am standing to the side of the action, watching, feeling, dreading, and enjoying.  He doesn’t just tell you what is happening, he writes in a way to make it real.  For example:

“The walls and ceiling of the room were perfectly black with age and dirt.  There was a deal table before the fire: upon which were a candle, stuck in a ginger-beer bottle, two or three pewter pots, a loaf and butter, and a plate.  In a frying-pan, which was on the fire, and which was secured to the mantelshelf by a string, some sausages were cooking; and standing over them, with a toasting-fork in his hand, was a very old shriveled Jew, whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of matted red hair.”

When I read this, I see what Oliver sees when he first meets Fagin.  I can sense the dread of meeting such a character in such a place.

As of now, I don’t have a favorite quote that stands out.  What stands out for me is the way Dickens can describe a scene and how he makes it believable, even when the actual situation is not all that believable.  He is a master storyteller.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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38 Responses to Is Dickens too dramatic?

  1. Kate Kresse says:

    great description. In my opinion Dickens is not overly dramatic. He is sufficiently, deliciously, wonderfully dramatic!

  2. T.F.Walsh says:

    You’ve got me wanting to read Oliver Twist:)

  3. I love it when stories really come to life when reading them. You really get caught up in the story and can’t wait to know the end and finish the book. Seems like a great challenge you’re participating in 🙂 Hope to read some of your favorite quotes here when you finish. For some strange reason, I love quotes from books and movies 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I am getting caught up in Oliver’s story. So far the challenge is fun…I like that there aren’t too many expectations and you can approach in several different ways. I also love quotes from books and movies. The problem with Dickens is that he has so many. I’ll try to narrow down some of the better ones.

  4. Kristina says:

    I think he is too dramatic, otherwise his work wouldn’t be so great 🙂 I also think that it was appropriate to be too dramatic back then, everyone was 🙂

  5. Dickens is always always magical for me – whether or not it may be called dramatic is another thing altogether. I love how he is able to transform mundane affairs to one that would move one’s sensibilities and invite you to look at things all over again through his eyes. His words simply weave magic. 🙂 I have fallen in love with his writing during my university years. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      Yes…his words simply weave magic. That is a wonderful way to put it. I love how he can make me see, feel, and almost touch the scenes he describes.

  6. buddhafulkat says:

    I love drama when it isn’t my own. This is making me want to read Dickens again. He does have a way of bringing words to life. =)

  7. megtraveling says:

    It’s a tribute to his writing style that we are still reading his stories after all this time! He writes about how earnest, flawed characters triumph over adversity, and that never goes out of date.

  8. niasunset says:

    This was great, dear TBM, what you said. Charles Dickens is not dramatic for me too. But the realities in life can be dramatic. He just tries to express these parts of life in a critical point of view… Sorry for my language, I wish to share more, but I think the main part of my words I told. Thank you, with my love, nia

    • TBM says:

      Your words are lovely Nia. Yes life can be dramatic and Dickens brings his readers into these drama with such style and flourish. And he makes you think. Thanks so much for your wonderful comments.

      • niasunset says:

        You are so nice dear TBM, Thank you. Sometimes I really feel that I can’t express my thoughts well as in my own language. How you made me glad now. You know, how I wish(ed) to join your reading sharings and discussions but not easy for me. Slowly goes… By the way, I ordered last weekend my books from Amazon… (how crazy the fee in here I can’t explain… it would be the most expensive books when I got them 🙂 bnecause of the customs duty! But I am not sure now, we will see when they arrive. Because in here they changed the law of customs duty… the books were free… and now nothing is free! Anyway, when they reach, I will start to read… but will be slow again, not as in my own language. So I will come back again in your blog and in your old posts to talk about them… I hope you don’t mind to come back in old posts… 🙂 I can’t catch you dear TBM… forgive me!)
        Have a nice evening and enjoyable readings, with my love, nia

      • TBM says:

        I hope you enjoy the books Nia. I’m sorry to hear that they raised the prices for customs. I think books should be free to deliver, but I’m a book lover. I look forward to our discussions. Take your time and enjoy them!

  9. carol says:

    I actually don’t know if I’ve read any of Dickens’ work, aside from A Christmas Carol, which I love.

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t read A Christmas Carol, but I plan to this upcoming Christmas. If everything goes according to plan, it will be the last of the ten Dickens’ books that I want to read this year.

  10. Caroline says:

    I start to have a feeling I might actually enjoy him after all. I love great descriptions. And he is great at atmosphere as well. Just that little teaser shows is brilliantly.

  11. I’m glad to read your positive endorsement of Dickens as I’m planning on reading Great Expectations in February and it’s my first “real” Dickens – I’ve only read A Christmas Carol and it seems like that hardly counts. I’ve had some reservations about Dickens so it’s nice to hear that he might be different from what I’m expecting.

    • TBM says:

      I loved Great Expectations when I read it in high school. I plan on re-reading it this year. I think many people would be surprised by Dickens.

  12. Caroline says:

    Did you see the mini-series Desperate Romantics?
    Dickens is also important in it. I loved that series. He comes accross as a very peculiar guy.

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t seen the mini series. I’ll have to look into it! Thanks for the tip. I haven’t read a biography on Dickens yet (I plan to after I finish his works) but I’ve heard bits and pieces about him from documentaries and shows that makes me think that he was indeed odd and troubled.

      • Caroline says:

        I chose the word “peculiar” on purpose as indeed he seemed to have had issues but judging from a TV series, no matter how good, is difficult.

      • TBM says:

        Now you are really making me want to watch this show! I’m curious to find out more about him and I would love to read some of the biographies on him.

  13. Caroline says:

    The series is based on a book with the same title and I bought that too.
    I will have to see if he is mentioned a lot. I don’t have it at hand right now.

    • TBM says:

      Oh man I only got 50%. I’ll have to take the quiz at the end of the year after I read his works and hopefully that will improve 🙂 Did you take it?

  14. I think I read somewhere the explanation that Dickens’s novels functioned as the Victorian periods “Lost” or “Downton Abbey” or whatever gripping saga. I think those overly dramatic scenes were there to keep the reader emotionally involved. And, I admit, it certainly works on me!

    • TBM says:

      And it works on me. I can see the “Downton Abbey” comparison. I’m one of the few people who never watched “Lost.” I find his novels to be gripping and I regret when I have to set them aside to do something else. He had a way with words and setting the reader up for wanting more.

  15. Caroline says:

    O got spammed! (:
    I left a link to a Charles Dickens quiz yesterday.

  16. Glad you’re enjoying it. I keep trying to start Dickens and just can’t get into him! I loved the Nicholas Nickelby movie, but started the book and it was going a little too slow for me. I can plow through Hardy’s long descriptions, but not Dickens’ for some reason!

    • TBM says:

      That is funny. I read Hardy for the first time last year and fell in love with his writing. I hope to read more of his novels. Glad you liked the movie, since Nicholas Nickelby is the next Dickens novel on my list. Thanks for stopping by!

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