Ghosts of the past in Dickens' later novels: transformations of memory in author and characters
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General views are that the dark mood of Dickens' later novels was influenced largely by his unhappy married life, his involvement with Ellen Ternan, and his recognition of incurable social injustice. However, it seems that his failed marriage aggravated Dickens' perception of reality more persistently than any other factor. This study is an attempt to read the way that the reality of Dickens' married life is intermingled with the appearance of his fictional world. This impact of real life upon fiction in Dickens' later novels is felt through the presence of one dominant symbol, the past, both in plot and characters. The past is an essential element in fiction writing, but memory, which revitalizes the past in fiction and present reality, is necessarily conditioned by the individual's current emotions. With this in mind, I have attempted to read the meanings of the emotionally-charged past in Dickens' fiction, in relation to his married life. Interestingly enough, Dickens' treatment of the past in the later novels undergoes the same process of change as his emotional perceptions of a past mistake, the youthful mistake that he made in marrying Kate. David's ambivalent attitudes toward past memories in David Copperfield. the obsessive presence of the past in Bleak House and Little Dorrit. the emotional, violent breakup from the past in A Tale of Two Cities, and the reconciled view regarding the past in Our Mutual Friend-all of these reflect Dickens' attitude toward the past mistake at the time of writing each of the later novels. Dickens did not simply record unhappily married couples in his iction and thereby express the unhappiness of his married life. Instead, he considered the moment of his marriage as the origin of his "present" unhappiness and unwittingly (perhaps intentionally to some degree) revealed his emotions in terms of the meanings of the past in his fiction. In Dickens' later life, thus, the ghost of the past appears to be a rather overworn specter which ceaselessly asserts its presence in his consciousness both as an unhappily married man and as a responsible novelist.