Don’t groan. I know people get Dickens crammed down their throats in school, and they aren’t keen on him as a result. But the Masterpiece Theater adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood captivated me, and not just because it was an interesting completion of his last, unfinished novel. The part I got sucked in on was the beginning, which he wrote. And I got sucked in because he could always tell a rip-roaring good story.
Yes, he’s ponderous and sometimes way too in love with his prose, but he can just haul you into a story like nobody’s business. Why else would we still be doing adaptations of his works all the time? I mean, how many versions of A Christmas Carol are there, anyway?
So here are some of my other favorite things about Dickens:
- His fondness for melodrama, which I just adore. I don’t know why. It’s not popular in our day and age (except in soap operas), but I eat it up. Give me an orphan found to be a benevolent lady’s long lost nephew (Oliver Twist) or a poor man winning the woman of his dreams after her abusive husband conveniently dies (Pip in Great Expectations), and I’m a happy camper.
- The quirky character names he invented. In The Mystery of Edwin Drood alone, there are Durdles (a hilarious stonemason), Rev. Crisparkle, and Mr. Grewgious. You won’t find a single one of those names in the Dictionary of English Surnames. Trust me, I looked. But they’re all great, evocative names. Just not real.
- His dedication to highlighting injustice and social ills. It probably comes from my upbringing as a missionary’s daughter, but I do love that about him.
- His willingness to listen to his readers, and alter his work accordingly. That’s a bit easier to do when your novels come out in serialized fashion, though.
As a man, he had his problems. Don’t we all? But his work still shines for me, and perhaps always will.
So how do you feel about Dickens’ work? Do you ever watch any of the adaptations? Who is YOUR favorite “classic” author? Do you think we would see Victorian England in quite the same way if not for Dickens?