The Life of
Dickens was born in London, England on February 7, 1812. He lived in
poverty and suffered greatly. When he was 12, his father, a gambler who
liked to live beyond his means, was jailed for debt. Charles had to go to
How is this similar/different from today?
What are current child labor laws?
Charles worked long hours in a shoe polish factory. He worked 40-60 hours
per week putting labels on bottles of shoe polish. He was paid poorly for
This experience was so influential on Dickens that his literary work reflects
how it effected him. This experience was also enough to make Charles take the
side of the underdog (the person not expected to win, for example, the poor).
Many of his characters are children who suffer from poverty.
Some famous Dickens’ works are:
Oliver Twist (orphan)
A Christmas Carol (Scrooge)
A Tale of Two Cities
Oliver Twist asking the orphanage governor
for more food.
These works all relate to a deteriorating human condition. Dickens
realistically portrays people and the city of London.
Young boys working in the coal mines.
A political cartoon depicting how unsanitary the drinking water was for
the poor.It came directly from the Thames River, where raw sewage was
dumped. Many died from drinking it.
was a London of rapid change. Important transportation and
manufacturing advancements were made each year. Products could be
made faster and people could travel farther and more quickly.
This had its problems!
-mostly women and children were laborers in factories
-pollution began to choke the city
-the government and other people became corrupt by greed
Working and living conditions deteriorated
in London. The judicial system was corrupt,
sanitation was not widely practiced, and
members of the lower class were treated poorly.
This picture shows typical housing for the poor-many people crammed
into small quarters where disease and fires were devastating.
Dickens became angered with these changes. His later novels are laced with
satire about education, government, greed, sanitation, and the treatment of
children and the poor.
Because Dickens works criticize the treatment of women, children and the poor.
He helped to change he way they were treated. He is now known as an
important social reformer.
This picture of “street boys” was a common sight.
These boys, as young as 4, lived on the streets and
begged for food (and tried to steal it).