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Mollifying the Masses: Obscuring Class and Alleviating Inequalities in Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and Little Dorrit

Author

  • Lisa-Marie Teubler

Summary, in English

This paper addresses the issue of a rising class-consciousness in the mid-nineteenth century, which threatened to challenge formerly stable power positions. The focus lies specifically on parts of Charles Dickens’s literary production as several early as well as contemporary critics, such as G.K. Chesterton and Andrzej Diniejko, have ascribed his works a rather critical position in the representation of inequalities as related to this newfound class-consciousness. By analysing patterns of social mobility in David Copperfield (1849-50), Little Dorrit (1855-57), and Great Expectations (1860-61), this paper argues that all three narratives stabilize rather than disrupt prevailing social hierarchies. They do so specifically by obscuring class, and thus socio-economic inequalities; by rendering narratives of successful or unsuccessful mobility individual rather than collective destinies; by naturalizing positions and presenting them as unchangeable; and by alleviating unsuccessful mobility through domestic happiness and charity. Consequently, an understanding of inequalities as based on socio-economic misdistribution is denied, and alternative structures to that of class are strengthened so that an unjust system—which could essentially be changed—is reproduced and stabilized instead.

Department/s

Publishing year

2013

Language

English

Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)

Topic

  • Languages and Literatures

Supervisor

  • Birgitta Berglund (FD)