Robert Slattery is a writer living in Western North Carolina. He enjoys music and all sorts of other things.
Opinion – In a tribute to the cultural power of the artist, the BBC has compiled a list of six contributions Charles Dickens has given us to our view, and understanding, of the world today. First, our image of Christmas, specifically, a snowy one. The popular image of Christmas is dominated by snow covered rooftops and icicles, so if you’re in the heat, and it doesn’t feel like the holidays, you now know who put that thought into your head.
Second, Dickens gave a potent image of poverty that remains today. Our image of Dickensian poverty, those unacceptably dire circumstances within which the obscenely poor live is (clearly, by the name) drawn from his social writings and novels of the downtrodden.
As far as the arts go, character-driven comedy, particularly that based around the way characters speak, is something he pioneered. In his readings, he took on the voices of his characters, as well as their mannerisms. These quirks have become a standard in our comedic storytelling, particularly the television sitcom, such as the brilliant Modern Family.
In addition to his presence in television, his impact can be found at the cinema as well. Director Sergei Eisenstein claimed Dickens’ impact on horribly-racist-but-undeniably-important film director DW Griffith was fundamental in the development of the form. In addition, his highly visual style (i.e. our image of poverty) has made his films exceptionally ripe for filming, resulting in over 100 adaptations.
The weighty character name is another contribution from his art. Rather than purely symbolic, allegorical names, his character names were built around personality characteristics and roles. Not only has “Scrooge” entered our vocabulary, it was designed almost to do so.
Finally, he’s given us our skepticism toward lawyers. According to Zechariah Chaffee Jr, writing in the Harvard Law Review, “No two books outside the bounds of technical law are more worth reading for law students than Pickwick Papers and Bleak House.”
As the 200th anniversary of his birthday draws near, it may be time to crack open those pre-copyright free Kindle/Ipad/Google Books files and get to reading some culture defining classics.
Read more at BBC