Reshaping Experiences Into Masterworks
Dickens draws us into the utter insanity of human experience. His characters are more real and more memorable than any possible reality. Leacock explains that the art of Dickens' novels lies in how he reshapes the aspects of human experiences. Dickens observed the best and worst of human life, and then turned those experiences into wit and wisdom. Beyond simply refashioning reality, he developed an identity for himself--through "that extraordinary magic by which he turns a cheat and a crook into a charming character, a criminal imposter into a thing of delight."
This biography captures the ups and downs of the life and work of Charles Dickens, but Stephen Leacock also explores the "new world" that has been opened up to us with this extraordinary body of work. Perhaps, Dickens succeeded in opening "the windows to the soul" as he captured so much of the horrific realities of Victorian industrialism. Social reform was important to Dickens, as he worked to raise the social consciousness of his public through his articles and his fiction. In his fiction, he takes the edge off the darkest and most tragic moments with humor and sentimentality.
Although Dickens has been criticized by that memorable sentimentality, Leacock reminds us to take into account the time from which the great writer came. Dickens evolved from that little boy into one of the greatest writers in English literature. He captured the essence of the age, but he also represented a time that was passing away. "In due time," Leacock says, "it will be known that the works of Charles Dickens represent the highest reach of the world's imaginative literature."