“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is perhaps Charles Dickens’s most famous line, and also one of his most relatable. Who hasn’t felt that a year, a day, a moment of their lives carried all the extremes of emotion? But that isn’t what makes Dickens memorable; in his long list of emotions, he captures what it means to be human, both in the Victorian age and in our own.
Charles John Huffman Dickens was born on February 7, 1812. He would become the most successful author of the Victorian period, publishing his works in monthly installments. This meant that Dickens built cliffhangers into his work – much like television writers do today. However, out of these serialized novels come some of our most iconic figures: Ebenezer Scrooge, Pip, Samuel Pickwick, and my personal favorite, Miss Havisham, the elderly woman left eternally in empty mansion and the tattered remains of her wedding dress. These figures never die; they are kept alive by a new readership (for his books have never gone out of print), media references, and tradition.
But what is a Dickens novel actually like? It might take a little patience to read one of his novels, for his sentences are long and his descriptions detailed. After all, Dickens could never have stopped at simply saying “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” when he could list every adjective possible to describe said times. However, in the end, Dickens often achieved what only the most patient reader will uncover: he captured a shade of humanity.
Bryn Clegg, age 20 from Portland area, Oregon, is studying English at BYU and has been an active reader of great literary works since a young age, she likes to run long distances and eat dark chocolate, when she isn't studying or working she also writes poetry in her free time.
Find Charles Dickens' books in the BYU Bookstore on our shelves in the Fiction section as well as in Collector's items, or you can purchase A Christmas Carol for $1.00 (Plus shipping and handling) online at BYUBookstore.com.