Dickens wrote with an idealism that said that if the world was going to be decent, people ought to act decently. Dickens wrote civilly about what he thought the right thing looked like, poking at social institutions as hollow and vapid, though without ever stating that outright. His style was simultaneously gritty and idealistic, unlike his craft's literary milieu.
Page 137: "For reasons that are easy enough to see, the agricultural labourer (in England a proletarian) gets a fairly good showing in fiction, and a great deal has been written about criminals, derelicts and, more recently, the working-class intelligentsia. But the ordinary town proletariat, the people who make the wheels go round, have always been ignored by novelists...The central action of Dickens's stories almost invariably takes place in middle-class surroundings."
This focus--I hesitate to say tactic because I do believe it's where Dickens' mind naturally leaned--is effective because most of society is comprised of middle class, working people. He skips the farmers and agrarians, landing right on the cobblers, servants, and innkeepers. This focus drew his vision solely toward the cultural viscera, rather than toward a potential new way of thinking about society, work, and misfortunes. He was the writer representing the people with dirty cuffs, callused hands, and plentiful mouths to feed.
Orwell describes Dickens' moral criticism of society as not even destructive, because, page 138: "There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it were overthrown. For in reality his target is not so much society as 'human nature.'" What I get from that is he believes people would either recreate the same thing they just destroyed, or that it's destruction and creation of something new would have no bearing on man's inner workings (behaviors, values, habits, etc.). Hence, I suspect Dickens wrote about the ordinary everyday person because he didn't see anything spectacular about humans.
Dickens morality-on-paper largely focuses on decency, or what I understand as 'acting kind toward others'. Yes, it's subjective, but novelists are stitched together with subjective ideals. We all know of Ebenezer Scrooge, the crotchety old man who learns to spread his wealth after seeing first-hand how his unnecessary cheapness effects real breathing people. But Ebenezer's path was long and arduous, and not the very effective because it took great resource and time to enlighten the tightwad. On page 146: "If you hate violence and don't believe in politics, the only major remedy remaining is education. Perhaps society is past praying for, but there is always hope for the individual human being, if you can catch him young enough. This belief partly accounts for Dickens's preoccupation with childhood." Now, I don't really agree with Dickens because anyone can change their habits and learn something which their mind currently deemed unlearnable. That's essentially how our values change. However, from a tactical standpoint, if you want to teach something important, a child's young brain will indeed absorb it quicker than an adult's. After all it took Ebenezer visits from three separate ghosts to change his mind, but only then because he felt the consequences of his thrift. (Scrooge's epiphany was thus not moral in the philosophical sense because it didn't entail a right/wrong decision, yet entailed feeling).
Page 149: "It seems that in every attack Dickens makes upon society he is always pointing to a change of spirit rather than a change of structure...His approach is always along a moral plane, and his attitude is sufficiently summed up in that remark about Strong's school being as different from Creakle's 'as good is from evil'." I can understand that tucked within his sensitive-novelist-rhetoric is an understanding that each person is truly responsible for themselves, but what I'm seeing left out is an understanding that people in society are both the spirit and the structure. People created society, which--cyclically--is comprised of them. Our structures reflect our inner wants, because they were built for no other reason than the perceived need of that society.
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