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Dickens & Mark Twain as Social Philosophers

This paper is a study of two of the nineteenth century's most effective social philosophers. Charles Dickens, writing during the Industrial Revolution in England, and Mark Twain, chronicling the equivalent period in America, created tremendously popular fiction that continues to speak to modern audiences. Both were particularly adept at using humor, especially drily ironic wit, to comment on the scenes they painted. In Dickens's Hard Times and Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, these two enduring novelists were at the top of their form. These books create worlds that are vividly alive, fictionalizations of the society each author knew best and observed with a critical eye. They also feature young characters who are wiser, or at least cleverer, than their elders. These youthful commentators allow their authors to look at the world with a child's wisdom and a sly smile of innocence. Twain's is a sunnier perspective, but both writers are able to find considerable humor in some of the darkest places imaginable. They clothe serious observations in wittily entertaining words and are thereby able to get their readers to think carefully about their own times and society.

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in Portsmouth, England. His father was a shipping clerk and struggled throughout Dickens' childhood with poverty. When Charles was 12, his father was sent to debtors' prison, and the memories of these difficult early years growing up in London flavor much of the author's writing.

Dickens worked hard to educate himself, eventually becoming a reporter and developing a singular talent for literary invention. He married Catherine Hogarth in 1836 and with her fathered 10 children; the couple separated in 1858. Before he was 30, he had established his distinctive voice through novels populated by vivid characters with colorful names and fascinating histories: The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curios...

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Dickens & Mark Twain as Social Philosophers. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:04, May 28, 2020, from