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Charles Dickens - Essay Example

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Charles Dickens

In those days, London was described as the doomed city with unsanitary living conditions and was a galore of diseases. "There were four epidemics of cholera within Dickens's own lifetime and, beside these mortal visitations, there were periodic and regular outbreaks of typhus, typhoid fever, epidemic diarrhoea, dysentery, smallpox and a variety of ailments which were classified only as "fevers".2" To improve the health condition of the people of London and other cities that were the main breeding ground for all diseases that would spread later to the rural areas of England, Dickens knew that sanitary conditions of the cities should improve. We see him attending many meetings to talk on behalf of sanitary improvement. Passionately arguing the case of sanitary reform in London on May 10th 1851, Charles Dickens said: "I can honestly declare that the use I have since that time made of my eyes and nose have only strengthened the conviction that certain sanitary reforms must precede all other social remedies, and that
neither education nor religion can do anything useful until the way has been paved for their ministrations by cleanliness and decency.3" Sanitary work in London and other cities started only in his latter life.
He was an influential social reformer of his time in many fields and being so very well-known, his views were respected. His characters of imagination provided him ample platform to argue the social reforms that he craved to see in the difficult times of Victorian England. His magazines and speeches on social injustice show him as one of the main propagandists of the time. He advocated the reforms without being specific about them. His desire was to see any kind of relief to the sufferers. For example; the Hard Times was based on a labour dispute in the weaving industry which was referred as "The Preston Lockout 1853-54". According to George Bernard Shaw, 'he was a revolutionary without knowing it4'. In a way, he was not particularly in favour of trade unionism; but felt it necessary to write Hard Times when nearly 30,000 workers, who depended solely on weaving industry, were affected. From today's standards, his arguments might look mild and slightly uncaring. But we must remember that he was writing for Victorian readers who were unused to trade unionism. "However, in addition to being a deeply held conviction, Dickens's tone and attitude can be understood as the best means of combating, without alienating, the no doubt, vulgar prejudices that existed in much of his audience.5"



England of those days had difficulties in finding medical professionals in sufficient numbers according to the requirement of the society and this fact continuously worried Dickens, in his own way, made sufficient efforts to draw Government's attention into the issue. When he died, The Lancet said: Medical Science, particularly in its bearings on the community as distinct from the individual, requires organisation - the establishment and maintenance of centres of relief, such as dispensaries, hospitals and convalescence homes. Depending as they do on voluntary support, they flourish or languish in sympathy with the liberality or the selfishness of the public. To soften this selfishness, to quicken this liberality, was the task to which Charles Dickens devoted himself - not after the mode of a licensed inculcator, but in obedience to the love of mankind with which his warm heart and genial imagination glowed.6"

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Summary

Dickens, through his immortal works, had pursued educational, political and social reforms throughout his life. He was uninterested in politics; but thought that politics could pave the way to social justice and reforms that were badly needed in the Victorian society…
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Charles Dickens essay example
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