Synopses & Reviews
Amy Dorrit’s father is not very good with money. She was born in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison and has lived there with her family for all of her twenty-two years, only leaving during the day to work as a seamstress for the forbidding Mrs. Clennam. But Amy’s fortunes are about to change: the arrival of Mrs. Clennam’s son Arthur, back from working in China, heralds the beginning of stunning revelations not just about Amy but also about Arthur himself.
Of the complex, richly rewarding masterworks he wrote in the last decade of his life, Little Dorrit is the book in which Charles Dickens most fully unleashed his indignation at the fallen state of mid-Victorian society. Crammed with persons and incidents in whose recreation nothing is accidental or spurious, containing, in its picture of the Circumlocution Office, the most witheringly exact satire of a bureaucracy we possess, Little Dorrit is a stunning example of how thoroughly Dickens could put his flair for the theatrical and his comic genius the service of his passion for justice.
(Book Jacket Status: Not Jacketed)
About the Author
Irving Howe is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Graduate Center of the City of New York and co-editor of Dissent magazine. His many publications include Thomas Hardy, Politics and the Novel, Culture and Politics in the Age of Emerson, and Socialism and America. His Selected Writings appeared in 1990.
Reading Group Guide
1. Imprisonment is a theme in many of Dickenss novels, but is perhaps most fully realized in Little Dorrit
. Discuss the attitudes of Mr. Dorrit and Little Dorrit toward the Marshalsea. How are they similar? Different? To what extent is either character able to overcome feelings of imprisonment once set free?
2. Critics have noted that, just as the text is divided into two books with opposing titles, “Poverty” and “Riches,” Little Dorrit is organized according to numerous symmetries. (For instance, “Sun and Shadow” of the first chapter.) Identify and discuss some of these symmetries. In what specific ways do they help advance the novels complex plot.
3. As in many of his novels, Dickens uses Little Dorrit to criticize government agencies he finds corrupt or incompetent. Discuss Dickenss portrayal of the Circumlocution Offic. What is the meaning of the offices name? Did you find Dickens critique successful? Why or why not?
4. Discuss the role of female figures in Little Dorrit. In particular, how do figures such as Amy Dorrit compare to other female characters that you have encountered in other novels by Dickens?
5. Dicuss the character of Arthur Clennam. Do you consider him the novels hero? Why or why not?
From the Trade Paperback edition.