I am not competent to comment on Dickens novels, per se. What I can do is share with you some thoughts, about the strong social and political beliefs that coloured his writing.
I have long felt an intuitive empathy with those who are exploited or marginalised, by whomever and for whatever reasons. And so, I can relate to why Dickens chose to write about his working-class roots, even though our political outlooks differ. He did it to raise social awareness about the ugly underbelly of Victorian times, and thereby to change public opinion in favour of a less divisive and more benevolent government.
From an anarchist perspective, we differ about the means and not the ends. Anarchism is a much misunderstood and maligned term. It is therefore necessary for me to say a few brief words in its defence. The stereotyped anarchist is nothing but a dysfunctional, disgruntled, social and political misfit, hell-bent on bringing about some vague utopia, over the rainbow by violent means. In popular parlance, anarchy is synonymous with chaos. In point of fact “anarchos”, the original Greek word for anarchism means without government. For all practical purposes, anarchists believe that the less government, the better. Why so? Because history teaches us that:
All power corrupts
Absolute power corrupts absolutely
For what it is worth, I endorse Dickens wariness of collective action. Because common causes are invariably presided over by institutions. Though well-meaning in intent, these institutions are inevitably hijacked by the powers that be, leading to progressive authoritarianism and corruption.
I further share Dickens aversion for empiricism; the over-kill of facts and figures to justify prevalent social and political beliefs. The subject of “statistics” was an integral part of my post-graduate, “urban-planning” curriculum. It was soon apparent to me that figures are easily abused, easy-pickings for the ubiquitous spin-doctors of this world masquerading as political scientists. They are supremely competent at justifying whatever is politically convenient.
Above all else, I applaud Dickens for remaining true to his working class roots. Many successful people sweep their humble origins under the carpet, and are only too willing to wine and dine with the Joneses. It took the likes of this great and humble man to prove to the Harrow and Eaton-bred publishers of those times that there was an audience out there for literature about life’s underbelly. That times were-a-changing. That there was a growing class of literates tired of reading prudish Victorian novels about sense and sensibility.
He exemplifies the artist, who wields a pen and not a sword; for whom art is a medium by which to first inform and then transform outdated societal beliefs, for the betterment of humankind.
- Adi Patell
Adi Patell is a retired architect/interior designer. After graduating in Bombay with a B Arch.degree, he completed a year’s post-graduation course in Development Planning at University College London. He then worked in London, on several medium-large commercial projects, for fifteen years before returning to India.
He has written several short stories, to be published in the near future. Recently, he has taken to writing memoirs and essays.