Upon its publication in , Little Dorrit immediately outsold any of Dickens s previous books The story of William Dorrit, imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea Prison, and his daughter and helpmate, Amy, or Little Dorrit, the novel charts the progress of the Dorrit family from poverty to riches In his Introduction, David Gates argues that intensity of imagination is the gift from which Dickens s other great attributes derive his eye and ear, his near universal empathy, his ability to entertain both a sense of the ridiculous and a sense of ultimate significance This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the text of theedition Little Dorrit is one of the less reviewed Dickens, it is clearly not up there with Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and whatnot I wish I could advance a theory as to why but I can t because Little Dorrit really does deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those acclaimed titles Anyway, it s been years since I read a Dickens and it is always nice to pick one up I just get a kick out of his writing style, the way the prose occasionally switch into a poetic rhythm Little Dorrit is one of the less reviewed Dickens, it is clearly not up there with Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and whatnot I wish I could advance a theory as to why but I can t because Little Dorrit really does deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those acclaimed titles Anyway, it s been years since I read a Dickens and it is always nice to pick one up I just get a kick out of his writing style, the way the prose occasionally switch into a poetic rhythmic mode, the way every character seems to have their own distinctive speech pattern and catch phrases, and the characters and story of course.I am fairly useless at deciphering themes from novels but if there is a single overriding theme in Little Dorrit that communicates itself to me I would say it is the virtue of modesty The eponymous Little Dorrit real name Amy Dorrit is a young lady of twenty , small in stature, unassuming in manner, without an atom of malice, kindly and virtuous to a fault She is one of Dickens angelic girl stock characters Yet the novel also shows that always being self sacrificing, never thinking or doing anything for oneself can lead to a lot of unhappiness and being taken for granted by the people we are servicing TV Tropes.com classify this character type as Incorruptible Pure PurenessSometimes I am a little resentful that Dickens expects me to love this shrinking violet of a character but her niceness does club me into submission after a while If only real people could be like thisThis is the way in which she is doomed to be a constant slave to them that are not worthy that a constant slave she unto them should beBesides being a character study Dickens also has a lot to say about the bureaucracy, the class system of the time, debtors prisons and whatnot I don t want to go into details about such weighty matters but a special note should be made for the Circumlocution Office, a fictional government office which is a great bit of lampooning about red tapes Dickens prose is great to read as always, sometimes beautiful, sometimes sarcastic, and sometimes hilarious The dialogue similarly ranges from silly to heartfelt and profound, it brought a lump to this throat a few times A very rare thing while reading I assure you I amsedimental than sentimental.In rating the book so high I am really cutting Dickens a lot of slack His usage of deus ex machina at several plot points is a little outrageous People become rich and poor at the drop of a hat, buildings fall on people just because they deserve it Still, the way I see it a five stars rating does not indicate that the book is perfect it just means that I like it a lot and am willing to forgive its flaws If you were made to read Dickens at school and have consequently been avoiding him like the plague to this day as an adult reader I would suggest you give him another try Personally, I am always up for a bit of Dickens, my favorite Victorian author probably.Notes This review is based on the audiobook version amazingly well read by Mil Nicholson with voices and accents galore , available for free at Librivox The BBC adaptation is very good they almost always are Little Dorrit is Charles Dickens s eleventh novel, published in monthly parts between December 1855 and June 1857, and illustrated by his favourite artist and friend Hablot Knight Browne, orPhizWe tend to give Dickens s novels convenient labels, such as the one criticising the workhouseOliver Twist , the one criticising schoolsNicholas Nickleby , the one criticising the legal systemBleak House , and the one criticising unionsHard TimesThis one could be thought of as the one Little Dorrit is Charles Dickens s eleventh novel, published in monthly parts between December 1855 and June 1857, and illustrated by his favourite artist and friend Hablot Knight Browne, orPhizWe tend to give Dickens s novels convenient labels, such as the one criticising the workhouseOliver Twist , the one criticising schoolsNicholas Nickleby , the one criticising the legal systemBleak House , and the one criticising unionsHard TimesThis one could be thought of as the one criticising government bureaucracy But it is much, muchthan that By now Dickens had established himself as a literary phenomenon He was an enormously popular novelist, but he was keen to sustain his literary status as well as entertain the crowds LikeBleak House , this is an elaborate, very complex and occasionally creaky novel with many interwoven and seemingly inexplicable mysteries In this, it seemsof a natural successor toBleak House , rather than to the much shorter anddirect one which preceded it,Hard Timesalthough the vitriol ofHard Timesis in evidence here too Although Little Dorrit is set in about 1826, it was written only a few years after the great Crystal Palace Exhibitionof the Works of Industry of All Nationsin 1851 It is interesting to wonder whether this vicious attack on British institutions is in part a commentary by Dickens on Britain s grand industrial and social advances Dickens was continuing to work at a frenetic pace to burn himself out in the modern vernacular and his personal life was equally frenzied In these two years, he bought two new houses, including his dream houseGads Hillin Rochester, which he had admired since he was a boy He lived in Folkestone, Paris, Boulogne and London, as well as travelling for speeches and business He continued to write, edit, and give public readings, be involved in the lives of his children, and was as enthusiastic about the theatre as ever He produced and acted in 6 plays and farces during this time, helped by his friend Wilkie Collins, although Dickens was very much the driving force behind them And his letters reveal that he was approaching a domestic crisis, and increasingly frustrated with his marriage He was preoccupied by the idea of freedom in all areas freedom assumed a greater and greater importance to him, and he was increasingly impatient with the Victorian constraints of his time.Little Dorrit is the novel which comes out of this state of mind The themes of prisons and being trapped in various ways, both physically and psychologically, permeate throughout the book Dickens certainly felt himself trapped, whatever others thought He also felt a long buried shame at his father s incarceration in theMarshalseaPrison for debt This is perhaps the novel most influenced by Charles Dickens s early experience, and a sense of gross injustice prevails too In fact the original title of the novel, for the first four issues, was not Little Dorrit butNobody s FaultThe Marshalsea Prison was a notorious prison in Southwark, Surrey although Southwark is now part of London , just south of the River Thames It was one of London s best known debtors prisons, and one with which Dickens was well acquainted Of course, the irony was that the only way for those incarcerated to survive there, was by purchasing items to keep themselves fed and clothed Getting out was well nigh impossible, as being incarcerated, they could rarely earn any money It was very much like a village behind bars, and although it was 30 years since his father had been imprisoned there and the prison had been closed down in 1842 , Dickens had never returned to look at it Only when he came to write Little Dorrit, did Dickens nerve himself to visit the parts of it which were still standing He notes in his preface, that this was in order to research therooms that arose to my mind s eye when I became Little Dorrit s biographerYet Amy Dorrit Little Dorrit is not the main character in the book If there is just one, it would be Arthur Clennam Dickens may well have decided to name his novel after Amy, since she is one of the very few virtuous unaffected characters, always seeking opportunities for each of her family, and through sheer determination, working towards the best life they can all have She may be small in stature, but her heart and courage are great indeed Amy was born in theMarshalseaPrison, surrounded by a family who all display the faults which can result from such a meanness of environment Her father, William, is so pompous, so quick to take offence, and so socially conscious, that having the unofficial titleFather of the Marshalseaconferred on him, is seen by him as a great honour He is arrogant, selfish, and all show , continually bolstered up by Amy s coquettish and patronising sister Fanny, a theatrical dancer, and her brother Tip, a roguish ne er do well William s brother Frederick, a broken man, has been up to now, Amy s only true friend.We also follow the story of Arthur Clennam On his father s death, Arthur has returned from business abroad, and is at a loose end Arthur s mother is a grim, old puritanical woman, who is paralysed, and living in the gloomy, decrepit old family house She is attended by Flintwinch, a malicious man, twisted in both body and mind, who has wheedled himself into being her business partner, and forced the family servant, Affery, to marry him These three form a unholy trio The scenes set here have a gothic unearthly quality, and Affery, with her terrified nonsensical babbling, comes across as some kind of wise seer There is hatred and malevolence here a deep seated resentment, but we are not privy to its cause, and neither is Arthur.There are myriad minor characters who make this novel sparkle, although it is a sinister sparkle, perhaps as in sparkly vampires There is the avaricious Casby, with his flowing white hair and twinkly eyes, with a semblance of benevolence shining out of his bald head There is his whipping boy and rent collector Pancks, a little chugging steam engine, busily screwingandmoney out of Casby s tenants There is Casby s daughter, the widow Flora Finching, fat, flirtatious and foolish Twittery, chattery Flora used to be Arthur s sweetheart a fact which now appalls him and is determined that he will never forget that fact, much to Arthur s embarrassment and chagrin She now looks after an equally eccentic and hilariously impossible relative,Mr F s auntFlora s character is based on Maria Beadnell later Mrs Henry Winter , with whom Charles Dickens had fallen madly in love, in 1830, when he was 18 Maria, like Flora, was pretty and flirtatious, and the daughter of a highly successful banker similar enough to a property owner After three years, her parents objected to the relationship, because Dickens s prospects did not look good Dickens wrote to her,I never have loved and I never can love any human creature breathing but yourselfAnd it is clear from his letters to his friend, John Forster, that Dickens had felt completely heartbroken over the break up.He met Maria, now Mrs Winter, again in 1856, and although he knew she was a great fan of her work, he was devastated at how she had changed, although she had tried to warn him, describing herself candidly in a letter as beingtoothless, fat, old and ugly Dickens found her talkativeness especially irritating, and quickly attempted to extricate himself from all but the most essential social contact with her and always strictly in public Dickens it now was, who rebuffed Maria s flirtatious attempts, and he portrayed her here as the voluble and irrepressible Flora.Perhaps an old affection did temper his pen, however Although it seems a cruel, heartless portrait initially, Flora reveals herself to have a heart of gold, and hidden perceptiveness, as the novel proceeds These characters who are so vociferous often prove to be the most multi layered in Dickens s novels The silent ones are oftenshadowy But Flora is an appalling delight, and some scenes which feature her may well make you laugh out loudWanting the heart to explain that this was not at all what he meant, Arthur extended his supporting arm round Flora s figure Oh my goodness me, said she You are very obedient indeed really and it s extremely honourable and gentlemanly in you I am sure but still at the same time if you would like to be a little tighter than that I shouldn t consider it intruding.There is Mr Merdle, the financier and greatest man of his timeAs a vast fire will fill the air to a great distance with its roar, so the sacred flame which the mighty Barnacles had fanned caused the air to resoundandwith the name of Merdle It was deposited on every lip, and carried into every ear There never was, there never had been, there never again should be, such a man as Mr Merdle Nobody, as aforesaid, knew what he had done but everybody knew him to be the greatest that had appeared Dickens builds Mr Merdle up so much that we are tempted to suspect that everything might come crashing down In fact Mr Merdle is based on a real life Irish financier and politician, called John Sadleir, view spoiler aprince of swindlersJohn Sadleir had resigned his ministerial position, when he was found guilty of being implicated in a plot to imprison a depositor of the Tipperary Bank, because the individual in question had refused to vote for him His disastrous speculations and forgeries had ruined several major banks, to the tune ofthan 1.5 million John Sadleir had ended his life by drinking prussic acid hide spoiler There is Mr Merdle s wife, always referred to asthe Bosom , on which he displays all his jewels and worldly acquisitions Mrs Merdle piques herself on being society, hypocritically professing herselfcharmedat the idea of being aperfect savageShe values her own status, money and etiquette above all else There is her son from a previous marriage, Edward Sparkler, a chap of limited intelligence, whose highest praise of a woman is that there isno nonsense about herThere is young John Chivery, the prison warden s son, who is devoted to Amy, and has a tendency to keep imagining his own gravestone with appropriate new inscriptions, according to how he feels the wind is blowing with respect to her feelings about him And the kindly Meagles family the retired banker Mr Meagles, impossibly convinced that all the world should speak English, his wife, and their cossetted daughter Minnie, orPetThere is Pet s companion or servantTattycoram , whose real name is Harriet Beadle Tattycoram Harriet is an interesting character, who is to play an essential part in the novel s outcome She grows greatly in character, but initially has understandable feelings of resentment She was a foundling, who has ostensibly been adopted by the Meagles They think they are being benevolent in this, but in fact she feels patronised, instructed tocount five and twenty, Tattycoramwhenever she shows her temper, and is treatedlike a servant than a companion These feelings are encouraged by another malevolent and manipulative presence in the book, Miss Wade, one of Dickens s most evil creations.We have a veritable panoply of characters then, full of energy and life, spilling from the pages, as always in a novel by Dickens and there are manyI have not mentioned And the dastardly villain of the piece He is a true pantomime villainRigaud , aliasBlandoisbased on the hated tyrant Napoleon III and we first meet him right at the start of the novel, in a prison, in Marseilles For this novel does not start out in the dank gloom of the Marshalsea, but in an oppressive hellhole of a prison in the blistering heat of the South of France We see Rigaud s arrogant, evil, manipulative, swaggering personality straightaway, and although Dickens keeps up the mystery by rarely naming him, we can recognise him every time he enters the stage, by his malicious, devilish smile, whenhis moustache went up under his nose, and his nose came down over his moustache.Mysteries abound in this novel There are long lost twins, both male and female, impersonations and doppelg ngers, unsuspected marriages and dysfunctional relationships There is truth, but mostly there are lies, and secrets There is the collapse of an institution, both metaphorically and in a very dramatic literal scene It is doom laden, with delusions and dreams mysterious creaking sounds are seen to be prophetic There is a suicide and a murder and animal cruelty It is a novel of two parts, entitledPovertyandRichesIn the second part, there is restitution of a sort, and there is punishment Debts are paid Poverty is transformed into riches, and those who were kind to each other when they were poor, becomespiteful or selfish, considering such earlier behaviour to be humiliating Starting in Marseilles, the action removes to London and then Venice a crumbling, decaying edifice, reflected in the degeneration of the characters within it In Little Dorrit any prosperity is almost a guarantee that the wealth will be put to bad use Even that decidedly decent fellow Daniel Doyce, intelligent and kind, the inventor of an unspecified mechanical wonder, is unable to get a patent for it in the Circumlocution Office, and we fear for his future Nothing in Little Dorrit is what it appears to be In many ways it is as much of a mystery story asBleak HouseAlmost all the characters are self seeking, and the message of the novel is a very bleak one indeed For whereas the concerns of the novel are similar to those ofDombey and Son , in Little Dorrit it is not only business concerns which are corrupt It has a far wider purview Dickens here attacks the whole of British society The novel Little Dorrit does not merely indicate a dark view of human nature, but is a savage indictment of the corruption at the heart of British institutions, and the effects of British economic and social structure upon every single individual Dickens shows with this embittered novel that he believes British society to be rotten to the core, and riddled with deceit There are only two refuges from the all pervasiveCircumlocution Office , either exile, or prison The very nameCircumlocution Officeis a challenge, and with the monstrousBarnaclefamily, Dickens oncethumbs his nose, by naming the family after a limpet like marine animal, which lies on its back and attaches itself to anything solid, such as a ship forging ahead and destroying everything in its path This is another metaphor for that great destroyer of originality, the Circumlocution office It is a self serving system of sinecures a place where all the employees learnhow not to do it , where all innovation, creativity, individualism and enterprise are efficiently stifled and ultimately quashed Together with the Stiltstalkings, the Barnacles infest both government and society, going around in circles, spewing red tape, and accomplishing nothing They ensure that no business which might promote the common good is ever done, crushing both originality and initiative, and rendering all relationships false This damning satiric representation of the Civil Service draws on Dickens s view of the recent government s bad decisions during the Crimean War which they expected would take 12 weeks, but in fact took twelve months, three major land battles and countless actions resulting in loss of life on a massive scale coupled with the leftover cynicism from his own days as a young parliamentary reporter Dickens was well placed to comment on the Civil Service, and his view was savage, waspish and also very witty Chapter 10Containing the Whole Science of Governmentis possibly the funniest thing Dickens ever wrote and that s really saying something The extraordinary achievement of Little Dorrit is that such a devastating and dour indictment of British society and institutions can be so very readable, so topical, yet at the same time so current, in its description of the never ending wheels grinding on in the Civil Service and to contain such delightful characters Dickens s characters can be recognised in any age he knew how to write about the familiar types of people we all know I can see Mrs Merdle with herBird, be quiet , and the awful spectacle of Mr Dorrit with his airs and graces, posturing, hemming and hawinghem hah ahI can see the heart rending picture of an over large child, Maggy, Amy s mentally disabled friend with herlarge features, large feet and hands, large eyes and no hair , devotedly following her diminutive friend Amy round like a little dog, with an inner conviction that if they all go toorspitaleverything will be all right I can see timid beaten Affery, worrying aboutthose two clever onesalways plotting I can see the appallingvarnishingof the smooth tongued Mrs General, employed as a tutor to Fanny and Amy, with her insistence on recitingPapa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prismat every opportunity, in order to keep the lips in the desired pouting positionsher way of forming a mind was to prevent it from forming opinions She had a little circular set of mental grooves or rails on which she started little trains of other people s opinions, which never overtook one another, and never got anywhere And now I can see the final scene in the book open up before my eyes The two characters we have been rooting for most, come out of the church of St George the Martyr, in Southwark, and are swallowed up in the roar of the citythey pause for a moment on the steps of the portico looking at the fresh perspective of the street in the autumn morning sun s bright rays, and then went down Went down into a modest life of usefulness and happiness into the roaring streets, inseparable and blessed Curiously enough, in the church of St George the Martyr now, Little Dorrit herself is still to be seen If you approach the altar and look up at the left panel of the magnificent stained glass window behind it, you will see the figure of St George, see that his foot is resting on a piece of parchment Directly beneath this is a much smaller, kneeling figure of a girl, whose hands are clasped in prayer, and whose poke bonnet is dangling from her back This isLittle DorritDickens always provides us with neatly tied up endings, in which mostly the evil characters get their just deserts, and our heroes achieve some sort of happiness, or growth We have that here, but we also have a deep sense of doom, or foreboding Their destinies lie heavily shrouded in the ether the fug of the city.George Bernard Shaw considered Little Dorrit to be Dickens smasterpiece among many masterpiecesI cannot think of aapt description Now this book is primarily a love story although in a convoluted narrative, containing fraud, murder, suicide and hate, domestic violenceplenty of that, mystery, weird noises in a dilapidated mansion, the lopsided shaped edifice, inside an old recluse woman with bitter memories and a son which he and her the mother, dislike each other stating it mildly A evil man who likes doing evil things, however some think this is a comedy.to each their own Arthur Clennam the son after twenty ye Now this book is primarily a love story although in a convoluted narrative, containing fraud, murder, suicide and hate, domestic violenceplenty of that, mystery, weird noises in a dilapidated mansion, the lopsided shaped edifice, inside an old recluse woman with bitter memories and a son which he and her the mother, dislike each other stating it mildly A evil man who likes doing evil things, however some think this is a comedy.to each their own Arthur Clennam the son after twenty years in China working with the recently deceased father in business comes home at the age of forty a virtual stranger in his native land of EnglandAnd the people old friends and particularly relatives unknown, they in reality are strangers Mother, Mrs Clennam cold, intelligent, unforgiving lady with dark secrets in a wheelchair for many yearsher eyes show hatred and Mr.Clennam wonders why The parents were for a numerous time, estranged In the same house a poor little woman of 22, Amy Dorrit a part time servant there that for obvious reasons Arthur calls Little Dorrit, the timid girl doesn t mindHer father William has been in debtors prison, Marshalsea for 23 years still the amenable man becomes the leader of the inmates, surviving by accepting small gifts from the unlucky creatures, the poor giving to the poorer But of course his daughter Amy lives with him in the ugly compound taking care of the wretch, the widower two other children envious Fanny , and Edward the drunk have shed the bad remembrances or tried to and live outside, not very well though Arthur falls for Amy but being 18 years older is he entitled, feeling uncomfortable and sees various women, Flora a lady he almost married but the flame is out only Little Dorrit can lite Starting a new business with Daniel Doyce a brilliant inventor lacking the ways of bookkeeping they are perfect until the troubles begin money or not enough as it is everywhere However the wealthiest man in England all say Mr Merdle, has a get rich quick business proposition, Arthur is tempted Then Mr.Blandois, not his real name for sure he has many, the evil man mentioned before, reenters the scene bringing gloom and destruction for those unable or unwilling to pay up, a mustached villain with a pointed nose the very image of mid 19th century, blackmail is his game To anyone who has read Mr Dickens will surmise the ending but the fun is taking the long log obstacles road getting there Little Dorrit is such a lovable girl which any person with a heart will love The bad thing is they only exist in fiction A forgotten classic, hidden among so many other fine works that Chuck produced I laughed, I cried and I nearly peed myself because I refused to put the book down It has been clinically proven that those who find Dickens too maudlin or sentimental are either emotionally stunted or full on cold hearted sociopaths Clinically proven.Not suprisingly, Kafka loved this book what with the Circumlocution Office and the strange almost alternate reality of Marshalsea Debtors Prison If you have never re A forgotten classic, hidden among so many other fine works that Chuck produced I laughed, I cried and I nearly peed myself because I refused to put the book down It has been clinically proven that those who find Dickens too maudlin or sentimental are either emotionally stunted or full on cold hearted sociopaths Clinically proven.Not suprisingly, Kafka loved this book what with the Circumlocution Office and the strange almost alternate reality of Marshalsea Debtors Prison If you have never read Dickens, give yourself a good hard slap now and get started Ah Charles, still the champion of the Big Engrossing Superbly Written Novel