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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Essay length: 1829 words

Nicholas Nickleby

Extracts from this essay...


'Nicholas Nickleby' Coursework In my introductory comments, I would like to talk about the background of Dickens and how he attempts to influence social change in his novel "Nicholas Nickleby". Charles Dickens was born in Landport, Hampshire, during the turbulent times of the Industrial revolution. These were times of extreme wealth and poverty a huge number of people lived in terrible circumstances, while small number had great privilege it was also a period of great social and moral hypocrisy where the respectable classes where desperate to avoid scandal and disgrace. This explains why Squeers could get away with the horrible things he did to the children. Dickens himself had suffered poverty and humiliation. His father was jailed for bankruptcy and debt he was sent to Marshalea debtor's prison. Dickens worked at a 'Blacking Factory' and saw the underbelly of London life- the experience helped him populate his novels with thieves, prostitutes, pickpockets and fraudsters this allowed dickens to see how the under class were treated. And how the legal court welfare system dealt with the 'undeserving punishments' Dickens wanted to encourage social change and improvement by making his readers (i.e. the new middle class) aware of the terrible social injustices of his time i.e. the prisons, the work house, the mill, factories and mines. Dickens wrote at a time when the written word was king.


When Nicholas arrives at Dotheboy hall he is stunned by how the little boys are treated. They have no food they were all sleeping four to a bed. Nicholas was shocked by how Squeers lies to the boys and to the boy's parents. He tells the parents how well their boys are doing in fact the children were weak fragile and bruised all from Squeers beatings. Nicholas is shocked by near enough everything he sees as it says in the text 'Nicholas opens his eyes, but not his mouth'. This was because Mrs Squeers and the girl dragged in a small straw mattress and a couple of blankets and Squeers then went on to say 'You'll always find a little bit of soap in the kitchen' Nicholas would not have been used to such abject poverty and would have expected home comforts such as a bed and washing facilities. Also when Nicholas arrives he finds out that Mr and Mrs. Squeers priorities are the cattle. They have so little regard for the children, as when Mrs. Squeers tells Mr Squeers of the steak, "I bought a good large piece of it myself on purpose for-"she is cut short because Mr. Squeers think she has bought the meat for the boys, but holding his hand she quickly says "Lor! You don't think I could have made such a mistake as that."


'My blood is up, and I have the strength of ten such men as you. In a violent outbreak Nicholas got Squeers. Nicholas sprang upon him, wrested the weapon from his hand, and pinning him by the throat, beat the ruffian till he roared for mercy. Only Smikes beating that makes him react over comes him and turn on Squeers. In these three chapters, Dickens creates both a complex and clear picture of how one of his hero-figures mind works. Dickens is telling us how a decent person should think and act through his portrayal of Nicholas, we also realise what is important to him. They should want things to change for the better, they should fight injustice, and they should always put others before themselves. Dickens always explains his hero's action by linking them to their feelings i.e. we are never given insight into Uncles Ralph mind, but we always have an insight into Nicholas's. A hero on Dickens terms should always be: brave, kind, honest and sympathetic. Nicholas character brings together episodes to a very strong thread of Dickens work: entertainment. He manages to get across the pain and suffering of the boys so well, he really captures the reader's heart through his descriptions of Smike and the appearance of the children. After his own family's suffering he knew just how cruel the legal system was, and so he wanted the members of the upper class to read his novels and change the life of such people. AMY JOHNSON 11I

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