Recognition and respect are separate terms, and it shows when in Dickens' class treatment. As we've realized, he approached them with an impressively individual sense of value, not prejudicing and unnecessarily defaming across cultures. But he has a very curious way in fiction of treating the relationships between the English classes. Ironically, his Dickensian bone swells through casting the elites' propriety in a more positive light than the lower class (with their "proletarian roughness"), whom he respects, though perhaps views as subordinate. On page 159: "When it is a question of the non-criminal poor, the ordinary, decent, labouring poor, there is of course nothing contemptuous in Dickens' attitude. He has the sincerest admiration for people like the Peggottys and the Plornishes. But it is questionable for whether he really regards them as equals." Criminals, according to Dickens, place themselves "outside human society" (p.158), so right there we have a great insight in to Dickens' civil and political leanings. In order for one to be decent and civilized, they must follow the laws whether or not they agree with them. I speculate the lower class' "proletarian roughness" and their likelihood for breaking the law is what keeps them at Dickens' arm length.
Can you respect a class of people while simultaneously depositing that they are lesser than? Dickens craftily admired the callused handed workers, not simply dismissing them, which would be the convenient thing to do. He understood their function, but literarily coveted upward mobility. In real life, he didn't necessarily want to be among them. On page 159, pulling the direct Dickens quote about a life experience: "No words can express the secret agony of my soul as I sunk into this companionship [associating with the lower class]; compared these every day associates with those of my happier childhood...Though perfectly familiar with them, my conduct and manners were different enough from theirs to place a space between us. They, and the men, always spoke of me as 'the young gentleman.'" Clearly Dickens was more upper middle class (soft-handed working class) and the people whom he was forced to be around as a child were lower middle class (hard-handed working class). He valued upward mobility, and according to Orwell it showed in Dickens' writing. Dickens' gentlemen heroes reflected his thoughts and beliefs, which is pretty average for novelists. Opinions and beliefs inevitably show in our fiction, and Orwell points out that although Dickens appreciates the lower class, he doesn't want to be around them, and although he sides with the poor against the rich, he sides with decency against stench and impropriety.
Page 160: "In one of Tolstoy's fables the peasants of a certain village judge every stranger who arrives from the state of his hands. If his palms are hard from work, they let him in; if his palms are soft, out he goes. This would be hardly intelligible to Dickens; all his heroes have soft hands...He likes a bourgeois exterior and a bourgeois (not aristocratic) accent." Dickens toed the line between upper bourgeois and aristocracy, but that line was sharply represented through battling aristocracy with the character of the poor. Dickens clearly had serious opinions about the class system, though it would seem to have made more sense for him to have a poor hero, or even an anti-hero, than a soft-handed gentleman hero who in my opinion is much closer to aristocracy than the proletariat. He seems like--and I'm not unique in this--the quintessential idealist.
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