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:
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.