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To Admire or Imitate: A Writer’s Approach to the Classics

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

I’m reading “Dombey and Son” right now by Charles Dickens, and one of the things that is really sticking out in my mind is how “Dickensonian” the characters are. That is, a number of them–Captain Cuttle, Louisa Chick, Miss Tox’s neighbor–are characters that today would be considered caricaturish, dry, and boring. They repeat the same things over and over, they are ignorant and incapable of legitimate thought to the point that the reader wants to slap them even when they’re well-intentioned, and they are flatter than a pancake rolled over by a steam engine and sat on by a sumo wrestler.

For me, thinking about this is a fun reminder that literature, like all art, evolves over time. Things that were typical of nineteenth century novels and that we easily accept from a novel written in that time, we would completely PAN if they came out today.


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