Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in English

First Advisor

Dr. Michael A. Zeitler


The novels of Charles Dickens move easily back and forth between comic satire, romanticism, and harsh realism. In Oliver Twist, Hard Times, and Great Expectations, Dickens' understanding of these literary traditions enabled him to be a universal and comprehensive writer but also specific to his time, place, and the social conditions of nineteenth-century England. Throughout his literary career, he used these elements and traditions of the past periods in his role as a social critic. The first chapter, an analysis of Oliver Twist, discusses the theme of poverty and its influence in creating a generation of criminals, depicting the harsh reality in urban Victorian society. In Dickens' portrayal of those who administer the law, his anger at injustice exhibits the satiric sense he inherited from Swift. Further, the common language used by the criminals, Oliver's innocence, and the contradiction between city and countryside remind readers of Wordsworthian romanticism. The second chapter, focusing on Hard Times, highlights the influence of the Industrial Revolution and its turning individuals into machines for the sake of increased industrial production and profit. However, Dickens' satire is revealed through Mr. Gradgrind's 1 2 explaining utilitarian pedagogical theory and trying to force it upon the schoolmaster and pupils that they need to learn nothing but facts and logic. On the other side, Cecelia's preference for emotions, feelings, instinct, and intuition, common features of Romantic literature, owes a debt to Dickens' Romanticism and the influence of Wordsworth and Blake. The third chapter, on Great Expectations, raises the issue of social class conflict, comparing , London life to the countryside. Pip is eager to be a gentleman, but he eventually comes back with-nothing but with what he inherited from Joe. Nevertheless, the description of Pip's rural background, Joe's plain character, and Magwitch's sponsorship of Pip highlight Dickens' Romanticism. Yet satiric characters exemplify the undeserved admiration given to the wealthy. Chief among these hypocritical worshippers of wealth and status is Uncle ;;􁪽 Pumblechook, who falsely assumes credit for Pip's advancement. The conflict between Great Expectations' Romanticism and its Realism continues to the very end, unresolved in the two alternative endings Dickens wrote for the novel.