Charles Dickens WORKSHEET A
Charles Dickens (1812-70) is widely considered to be one of the greatest
writers in the history of the English language.
His novels provide a vivid description of life in nineteenth-century England, and
tell wonderfully engaging stories that are full of memorable characters. Many of
the people in his books have exaggerated characteristics, often being either
extremely benevolent or extremely unpleasant, and some of his most famous
works are ‘morality tales’ in which good people end up being rewarded and bad
people punished. All his stories make the reader desperate to know what
happens next, and during his lifetime most of his novels came out in separate
weekly or monthly parts, so people had to wait patiently for the next instalment.
Another feature of Dickens’ work is his social conscience, particularly his
awareness of the poverty and bad working conditions suffered by the urban
working-class population of nineteenth-century England. At a time when Britain
was the world’s richest and most powerful country, he focused on the people
who didn’t seem to be receiving any of the benefits.
This sympathy came from personal experience, as at the age of twelve he had
to support his family by working ten hours a day in a filthy London factory,
sticking labels on jars of polish. During this period his parents and brothers and
sisters were in a special prison for debtors, because his father had spent too
much money. Charles used to visit the prison at weekends, and the awful
conditions probably provided him with inspiration for his future writing.
In his twenties Dickens started a career as a political journalist, and his special
talent for storytelling soon became obvious. In his spare time he started to do
other kinds of writing, including his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, which
became a great success as soon as it was published in 1836-7.
Over the next twenty-five years he wrote masterpieces such as David
Copperfield, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. Oliver
Twist is the story of a kind-hearted young orphan who gets tricked into joining a
gang of pickpockets on the streets of London before eventually being rescued
from his life of crime. In the 1960s it was made into a much-loved musical, first
for the theatre and then later as a film.
Charles Dickens WORKSHEET B
Here are some simple definitions for words or expressions that
appear in the text on Worksheet A. Find the words or expressions
they refer to and fill in the gaps.
1. _______________ (adjective) kind and helpful
2. _______________ (noun) a child whose parents have died
3. _______________ (noun) a substance that you rub onto an object
to make it shine
4. _______________ (adjective) very dirty
5. _______________ (noun) one of several parts of a story or article
published at different times in a magazine or newspaper
6. _______________ (noun) someone who steals money and other
people’s pockets and bags, especially in crowded places
7. _______________ (noun) a long written story about imaginary or
characters and events
8. _______________ (noun) an excellent painting, book, piece of
music etc, or the
best work of art that a particular artist, writer, musician etc has ever
9. _______________ (noun) a piece of paper or material fastened to
an object that
gives information about it
10. _______________ (verb) to provide money, food, or other things
needs in order to live
11. _______________ (noun) a group of young people who sp end
time together and
often cause trouble
12. _______________ (noun) someone who owes money
13. _______________ (adjective) very bad
14. _______________ _______________ (noun) a knowledge or
what is morally right in a society
15. _______________ (adjective) having or producing very clear and
in the mind
Charles Dickens WORKSHEET C
Decide whether the following statements are true (T) or false (F), or if the text
doesn’t say (D).
1. Like the character Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens was an orphan.
2. There is music in the 1960s film version of Oliver Twist.
3. Dickens had already earned a lot of money before he started writing novels.
4. Dickens’ work only became very popular after he died.
5. Dickens didn’t write about people who lived in towns or cities.
6. He kept all the money that he earned from working in the factory.
Below are some excerpts from the text, but not all of them have been copied
correctly. Decide if they are correct (C), or incorrect (I) and then bet a minimum
of 10 points up to a maximum of 50 on your choice.
C/I Points bet Points lost Points won
1 ‘Charles used to visit the
prison at weekends …’
2 ‘ … he had to support his
family by work ten hours a
3 ‘ … Britain was the world’s
richest and most powerful
4 ‘ … people had to wait
patiently for next instalment
5 ‘All his stories make the
reader desperate to know
that happens next …’
6 ‘His novels provide a vivid
descrition of life...’
7 ‘ … his special talent to
storytelling soon became
8 ‘Many of the people in his
books have exaggerated
Total points lost and won
Final total (subtract total points lost from total points won)
Charles Dickens – Glossary
awareness noun [singular/uncount]
knowledge or understanding of a subject, issue, or situation
There was a general lack of awareness about safety issues.
benefit noun [count/uncount]
an advantage you get from a situation
The new sports centre will bring lasting benefit to the community.
character noun [count]
a person in a book, play, film etc
The book has a solid plot and likeable characters.
characteristic noun [count]
a particular quality or feature that is typical of someone or something
In the future parents may be able to choose their children’s physical
needing or wanting something very much
She was desperate to see him again.
to attract and keep someone’s interest or attention
A good radio script should be able to engage the listener.
describing something in a way that makes it seem better, worse,
larger, more important etc than it really is
exaggerated claims about the drug’s benefits
inspiration noun [singular]
someone or something that gives you new ideas and the enthusiasm
to create something with them
The artist’s personal life has been the inspiration behind several
jar noun [count]
a glass container with a lid and a wide top, especially one in which
food is sold or kept
a jar of marmalade
worth remembering or easy to remember, because of being special in
morality noun [uncount]
principles of right or wrong behaviour
As a novelist, she has never been very preoccupied by morality.
musical noun [count]
a play or film in which there are a lot of songs
the classic musical The Sound of Music
able to wait for a long time or deal with a difficult situation without
becoming angry or upset
It’s difficult to wait patiently when you’re stuck in a traffic jam.
poverty noun [uncount]
a situation in which someone does not have enough money to pay for
their basic needs
Half the world’s population is living in poverty.
reward noun [count/uncount]
something good that happens or that you receive because of
something that you have done
You deserve a day off as a reward for working so hard.
sympathy noun [uncount]
a natural feeling of kindness and understanding that you have for
someone who is experiencing something very unpleasant
We all have great sympathy for the victims of the flood.
tale noun [count]
a story about imaginary events or people
tales of bravery and romance
talent noun [count/uncount]
a natural ability for being good at a particular activity
She had an obvious talent for music.
to make someone believe something that is not true
I suddenly realized that I’d been tricked.
relating to towns and cities, or happening there
Urban poverty is on the increase.
to describe the social class that consists of people who do not have
much money, education, or power and who work mainly in manual