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There are few happy children in the works of the renowned British novelist Charles Dickens (1812–1870). From the orphaned Pip in Great Expectations (1860), to lame Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol (1843), from starving and exploited Oliver in Oliver Twist (1839), to doomed Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–1841), Dickensian children form a roll call of social deprivation, parental abandonment, and grinding poverty. This entry examines Dickens’s key works and some of the signature features of his writing about children and childhood.

A Bleak Childhood

Few novels explore the impact of 19th-century urban society on its children to the degree of Dickens’ Bleak House (1852–1853); indeed, far from the problem often seen in criticism of children in fiction—that of the search for the ‘real ...

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