Christian, humanist and ethical themes
in Charles Dickens' Novels

Peter Ackroyd in print and on television has made me more interested in the man than what Dickens wrote. It seems to me from my own reading that Dickens represents the good and bad of the Victorian conscience driven social liberal - who sees the need for thorough reform but is trying to hold the lid by accepting small changes only. I like the following source for relating Dickens to Christianity.

Charles Dickens 1812-1870

He wrote:
Pickwick Papers 1836-1837
Oliver Twist 1838
Nicholas Nickleby 1838-1839
The Old Curiosity Shop 1840-1841
Barnaby Rudge 1841
Martin Chuzzlewit 1843-1844
Dombey and Son 1846-1848
David Copperfield 1849-1850
Bleak House 1852-1853
Hard Times 1854
Little Dorrit 1855-1857
A Tale of Two Cities 1859
Great Expectations 1860-1861
Our Mutual Friend 1864-1865
Edwin Drood 1870

There are a number of Christian, humanist and ethical themes in Dickens' work. Dickens work has the New Testament about it. There is the contrast of good and evil, where evil is dominant and society needs redeeming but Dickens seems unable to bring this about by people taking collective action. This universe of evil is grotesque and mythic, where an unlikely promised good future is so much more uncluttered and humanistic. Goodness seems to be in small places and individual and involves sacrifice and suffering. The humanity in people comes in their comic ways; our foolishness is what makes us human. So the Dickens' novel is of course a social criticism, is in praise of humanity in its struggle and has a related religious content.

Summary points from a dialogue between Angus Wilson, a humanist, and Anthony Dyson, a Christian (went on to be a bishop), in Watts, C. (intro.) (1976), The English Novel, Questions in Literature series, London: Sussex Books, 53-75.