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Charles Dickens and the Tradition of British Picaresque Novel

Author FuYiChun
Tutor TongZhen
School Xiangtan University
Course Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords Dickens Picaresque novel Optimism Criticalness
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
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Picaresque novel, epistolary fiction and autobiographical novels are known as the three important literary forms of Western literature. Since Lazarillo de Tormes by a Spanish anonymous author came out, picaresque novel has lived through over 4 hundred years. Picaresque novel full of flourishing vitality and high artistic appeal profoundly influences generations of readers.In 17 Century, the picaresque novel made its debut in England. Although there were some representative works, they all had a single content and the mature skill. In 18 Century novel grew vigorously in England, and there had emerged a large number of excellent writers, among which many were affected by picaresque novel, such as Defoe, Fielding, Smollett, and Swift and so on.Dickens, as one of the most important writers in 19 Century, carried on the traditions of picaresque novel. His representative works such as Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, The personal history of David Copperfield, etc. were characterized strongly with the picaresque novel. Dickens had applied the creative method of picaresque novel in character selection, structure, the narrative technique and the artistic style. Besides, Dickens also showed the time characteristics and his personal style. Dickens characterization has been widely acclaimed,especially the images of abnormal people express the severely criticized towards the social system which causes the psychological abnormality. In the narrative technique, the traditional picaresque novel uses narrative technique and in 18th century there were some picaresque authors use full field. Dickens used two techniques in writing and also used them both in Bleak House. This is a useful exploration for the creation in a new way. Meanwhile, the traditional picaresque novel’s witty satirical style was suspected as gag inevitably. Dickensin blend humanitarian concern in the humor which enhancing the novel’s critical validly. In addition, the era which Dickens lived in influenced the author’s writing unobtrusively and imperceptibly. In the Victorian era when Dickens lived, the integrity of family and happy marriage, the personal optimism and positive attitude were considered as the religious doctrines, by which Dickens was deeply influenced. He abandons the traditional indifference to family, but took the integrated family as the important goal of the hero.Charles Dickens did not write picaresque novel occasionally. For England was the nation that paid great attentions to traditions, which combined with the similarity between his personal experiences and picaresque novel,led Charles Dickens to inherit and write picaresque novel. Charles Dickens’s novel widely and profoundly reflected the dark side of society at that time, exposing various malpractices in capitalist society, and also further developing the optimistic attitude to everything and the positive spirit to look forward of the leading character in novel.

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