Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (published serially from 1838-1839) meets the Dickensian stereotype of a very long book. I began reading it when my daughter was newborn and I finally finished it, now that she’s three and half.

Nicholas Nickleby is definitely not my favorite Dickens novel. In some respects it’s obvious that its a early novel by the master of complex plots. It has many different plots and subplots and an abundance of clever characters, and yet there’s something that seems to be missing to tie the whole novel together. It simply was not an enjoyable read for me after the first few hundred pages.

That’s not to say I regret reading it. I’m always glad to read another Dickens novel, I really do enjoy both the complex and the superficial and stereotypical characters that are presented in a Dickens’ novel.

Nicholas Nickleby is about the once wealthy Nickleby family, which upon the death of the father of the family is left impoverished due to his unwise investments. Mrs. Nickleby is a ridiculous woman. Nicholas is of course the eldest, and since he is college educated and the new “man of the family”, he must find a way to support his mother and sister. Nicholas’s beautiful and innocent sister, named Kate, also needs taking care of. Upon the reversal of their fortunes, the Nicklebys first turns to their estranged uncle, Ralph Nickleby, in London, who is wealthy, in hopes that he will help them become established in some way with their new, less stable, future.Continue Reading

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (published 1897) is another fascinating science fiction look at the implications of a changing world of acceptance. The titular character in this story, Griffin, is an albino who had once studied medicine. Tired of being marginalized for his strange appearance, he undergoes medical experiments, ultimately succeeding in creating a formula for invisibility. He hopes that by being invisible, he can blend in with his environment, get back at those who have marginalized him, and seek power and glory by gaining access previously denied him.Continue Reading

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (originally published 1895) is a short novella that, on the surface, is about a man who invents and then uses a time machine to travel 800,000 years into the future. More specifically, however, The Time Machine is about class division. In the futuristic world the Time Traveller visits, the evolved humans of the future have become divided into two different types: Eloi and Morlocks. The existence of two very distinct types of evolved humans comments on the dangers of living with distinct social classes.

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Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy

My first Thomas Hardy novel was simply fantastic. Emotionally poignant but also socially resonant, Tess of the D’Ubervilles provides an intriguing story about Victorian social and sexual hypocrisy through characters with clear flaws to recognize and appreciate. And yet, although it was clearly a commentary on the social structures and sexual morality in Victorian England, Hardy never once lectured or made his novel about those issues. At first and last glance, the book is a tender one about one poor woman and those who associate with her.

Note: this post contains spoilers for the entire novel.
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