"Larson has given us a very learned book which is likely to gain the position of definitive authority on its subject."
In Dickens and the Broken Scripture, Janet Larson examines the paradoxical role of the Bible in Dickens’ novels, from such early works as Oliver Twist and Dombey and Son, in which the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer were drawn upon for the most part as stable sources of reassurance and order, to the far more complex novels of Dickens’ maturity, such as Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Our Mutual Friend. In these later works, biblical allusion performs an increasingly contradictory and dissonant role that brings into question not only the moral character of Victorian society but also the sanctity of received religious traditions.
Critics have tended to view Dickens’ extensive use of the Bible as a not particularly complex or admirable aspect of his artistry—as a device he used primarily as a means of reassuring and building solidarity with his Victorian public. But as Larson demonstrates, Dickens’ use of biblical allusion was as sophisticated and multifaceted as his use of character, narrative, description, and plot. In Dickens’ novels, the Bible is a broken book, in need of revitalization and reinterpretation for his time, but also desperately vulnerable to attack from the tempestuous Victorian society of his day.
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