The Treatment Of Social Injustices In Charles Dickens's Works
Odari, Masumi Hashimoto
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This study critically analyses and examines Charles Dickens's portrayal of social injustices during the Victorian era in his works. Dickens, an internationally renowned writer whose works are still widely read all over the world, has written on various social issues that are relevant to the twenty-first century. While there has been a significant number of critical works on Dickens, many of them addressing his social concerns, there has been a lack of research that deals with a comprehensive picture of social injustices as depicted in these works. This study, therefore, fills the gap by looking at the comprehensive picture of Dickens's portrayal of social injustices. It also examines the role that Dickens plays in promoting social justice. The study further investigates whether Dickens was concerned with the plight of women as well as the marginalized status of the Jewish people in the nineteenth-century English society. To do this, I have looked at his fourteen novels and one short story. The guiding hypothesis of this study is that Dickens demonstrates that writers can playa vital role in promoting social justice. Secondly, Dickens has given an accurate picture of the ills of the Victorian society. And thirdly, Dickens treats women and the Jewish people as victims of prejudice. My study has adopted the New Historicism and Feminist Theories to literary criticism. The New Historicism theory is relevant as this study deals with examining the social injustices in the Victorian era and how Dickens responds to the historical situation of the nineteenth-century. This study also deals with how Dickens portrays female characters and how they were treated by men and society at large, thus the relevance of v the Feminist theory. Using the above theories, this study analyzes the primary texts mentioned above in relation to the issues of social injustices, critiques the critics' observations about the concerned issues and examines whether Dickens was fair in his presentation of the social injustices. In this study, I first look at how the Victorian society and Dickens's personal life contributed to his sensitivity towards a just society. Thereafter, I examine the different types of social injustices, including the unjust treatment of the poor and the Jewish minority, which were dealt with by Dickens. I also examine the legal and other institutions that played roles in promoting social injustices. I, then, focus on how the vulnerable group, the women and the children, were treated by society in Dickens's works. The findings of this study are that first, Dickens's works are concerned with various social injustices including the exploitation of the poor, the working class, women, children and the Jews. Secondly, that Dickens attacks the legal systems as well as the public institutions that contributed towards fuelling social injustices in his society. Thirdly, that Dickens paints an accurate picture of society, and his message is that human beings can only become happy when they overcome their own prejudices against others and treat them with respect and compassion. Based on the study, I conclude by stating that Dickens's works deserve to be studied in this twenty-first century in our attempt at understanding the various social injustices and the extent to which they can affect human beings. By understanding the effects of social injustices, we are able to move a step forward in creating a just society that Dickens prayed for. VI This study will contribute to future research on Dickens, especially, in the area of Dickens's portrayal of social ills in the nineteenth-century and how societies in the twenty-first century can benefit from his works.
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