Representation of Christianity in Charles Dickens’ Works
The representation of Christianity in Charles Dickens’ works was both debated and largely overlooked by his contemporaries, particularly because of his lack of representation of the views of the Established Church. In fact, Dickens voiced his opposition to the practices of the Anglican Church. His negative representations of Church officials, in many of his novels, pointed out what he felt were the hypocrisies of the Church. Dickens was a liberal Christian and believed in a more humanitarian view of Christianity. He wanted to remove religion from the high Church and place it back into the lives of the common people. Dickens believed Christianity was demonstrated through good works and the teachings of the stories, instead of debating dogma. Dickens was a devoutly religious man who used his medium to express not only his views of Christianity, but also his profound belief in its rehabilitating function in society. He used his novels as a didactic platform to promote what he felt to be the proper moral solutions to social ills. He believed the church had lost the masses but that fiction could recapture them, thus leading the way to what he believed was the moral and upright path.
Dickens lived during a time when the literal truth of the Bible was challenged by the rise of scientific philosophy. While the High Church answered this challenge with obsessive doctoral debating, the Evangelical wing of the Anglican Church focused their ministry on Old Testament moralizing — neither of which assisted the underprivileged. This forced Dickens, like many other Victorians, to assess the role of the Established Church and its functio…
…ication to real life, in the hopes of healing the ills of society with the powers of Christianity. In this sense, like Christ, he promoted salvation through his writing and advocated social and religious reform as a correction of what he felt to be the failings the Established Church.
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Dickens, Charles. The Life of Our Lord. 1834. Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1991.
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Fielding, K. J., ed. The Speeches of Charles Dickens. London: Oxford UP, 1960.
Johnson, Edgar, ed. The Heart of Charles Dickens. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1952.
Vogal, Jane. Allegory in Dickens. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1977.
Walder, Denis. Dickens and Religion. London: Allen, 1981.