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Old 14th Feb 2011, 14:01   #1
Lucoid
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Default Charles Dickens: The Pickwick Papers

I've wanted to read The Pickwick Papers ever since I found myself in the world of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, one of my earliest forays into the literary classics. Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy play at being the Pickwickians with such obvious enjoyment and hilarity that I was immediately convinced that it must be a wonderfully involving story. I've lived with that reverence for an unread book for so long that I should have seen I was setting myself up for disappointment - probably something like the theory that you should never meet your idols.

I've read several Dickenses before, but Pickwick is clearly the work of a new writer still developing his talent. Written in his early/mid twenties, it was the first of Dickens' novels (originally published as a serial, like the later ones were), though you can see strong threads of the themes that were to become more central and important to his writing, such as poverty v wealth, the law and the courts, kindness v unkindness. However, The Pickwick Papers is most definitely a comedy first and foremost. I'd suggest that new Dickens readers leave Pickwick alone for a while, and treat The Pickwick Papers as an interesting comparison to the later, more held-together works that will really get you gripped - Pickwick is so episodic and random that I found myself wondering if it was going anywhere at all, and if so, if it had lost its Tom-Tom.

I found the various predicaments of the Pickwickians hugely irritating for the most part, though entertaining in small measures, kind of like overdosing on a sitcom - it struck me at the time as being rather like Some Mothers Do Have 'Em, but really its cast of characters makes it more Dad's Army. Looking back I think it would have been much more sensible if I'd treated it like a TV series and read it one instalment a week, more like the way it would have been enjoyed when it was first published. I bet a quick Google would bring up details of which chapters went together, so I'd definitely recommend that for anyone who's easily frustrated by Mr Bean-like numpties. I did find Mr Pickwick rather like Enid Blyton's Mr Twiddle, who spent a whole afternoon walking round the garden following a trail of coins, only for his wife to spot he had a hole in his pocket.

Despite all that, all the many loose threads found themselves tied up neatly at the end, with smiles all round (at least, where they were deserved). There's a big serious debtors' prison story line somewhere in the middle that's the turning point that makes it all worthwhile and shows exactly what the central theme is meant to be, I just found it hard getting there.
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Old 14th Feb 2011, 16:45   #2
Colyngbourne
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Default Re: Charles Dickens: The Pickwick Papers

To do spoilers, Lucoid, you put the hidden text like this -

{hide} text here {/hide}

only using square brackets instead of curly ones.
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Old 15th Feb 2011, 13:43   #3
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Default Re: Charles Dickens: The Pickwick Papers

Thanks Col! I'll give it a go.
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