The Social Commentary in Charles Dickens' Novels

As a literature enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by the works of Charles Dickens. His novels are not only entertaining but also serve as a reflection of the society in which he lived. Dickens was a master of social commentary, and his novels are filled with characters that represent different aspects of society. In this article, we will explore the social commentary in Charles Dickens' novels and how he used his writing to shed light on the issues of his time.

The Victorian Era

Before we dive into the social commentary in Dickens' novels, it is essential to understand the context in which he wrote. Dickens lived during the Victorian era, a time of great social and economic change in England. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and the country was experiencing rapid urbanization. The gap between the rich and the poor was widening, and social issues such as poverty, child labor, and crime were rampant.

The Poor

One of the most significant themes in Dickens' novels is the plight of the poor. He was deeply concerned about the living conditions of the working class and used his writing to draw attention to their struggles. In "Oliver Twist," for example, Dickens portrays the harsh realities of life in a workhouse. He shows how the poor were treated as second-class citizens and how they were forced to work long hours for little pay.

In "A Christmas Carol," Dickens uses the character of Bob Cratchit to highlight the struggles of the working-class. Cratchit is a hardworking clerk who is barely able to make ends meet. He has a large family to support, and his meager salary is barely enough to provide for them. Through Cratchit, Dickens shows how the poor were forced to live in poverty and how they were often unable to provide for their families.

The Rich

While Dickens was sympathetic to the poor, he was also critical of the wealthy. He believed that the rich had a responsibility to help those less fortunate than themselves and was appalled by their indifference to the suffering of the poor. In "Great Expectations," for example, Dickens portrays the wealthy as selfish and uncaring. Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster, is so consumed by her own bitterness that she is unable to see the suffering of those around her.

In "Bleak House," Dickens satirizes the legal system and the wealthy lawyers who profited from it. He shows how the rich were able to manipulate the legal system to their advantage and how justice was often denied to the poor. Through his writing, Dickens exposes the corruption and greed of the wealthy and calls for a more just and equitable society.

Child Labor

Another issue that Dickens was passionate about was child labor. During the Victorian era, children as young as five were forced to work in factories and mines. They were often subjected to long hours, dangerous working conditions, and little pay. In "Oliver Twist," Dickens portrays the brutal reality of child labor in the character of the Artful Dodger. The Dodger is a young boy who is forced to work as a pickpocket and is exploited by Fagin, a criminal mastermind.

In "Hard Times," Dickens takes a more direct approach to the issue of child labor. He portrays the character of Bitzer, a young boy who has been raised to believe that hard work is the only path to success. Bitzer is a product of the utilitarian philosophy that dominated Victorian society, which valued efficiency and productivity above all else. Through Bitzer, Dickens shows how the education system was failing children and how they were being robbed of their childhood.


In conclusion, Charles Dickens was a master of social commentary, and his novels are a reflection of the society in which he lived. He used his writing to shed light on the issues of his time, including poverty, child labor, and the gap between the rich and the poor. Through his characters, Dickens exposed the injustices of Victorian society and called for a more just and equitable world. His novels continue to be relevant today, and his message of social justice resonates with readers around the world.

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