This post is sponsored by What the Dickens?! by Bryan Kozlowski
Dickens’s characters make his books. They’re strange and complicated, villainous and angelic and heartbreaking. They’re sometimes offensive or clichéd (like most geniuses, he could badly miss the mark), sometimes so complex and perfect I can’t understand why anyone bothers writing at all anymore. So here, in no particular order because it’s impossible, are 10 of Dickens’s best characters:
2. Betsy Trotwood, David Copperfield. The titular character’s great aunt, who takes him in after he runs away from an abusive stepfather, despite the fact that she entirely lost interest in him at his birth when he proved to not be a girl. Betsy is stubborn, resourceful, independent (and, if I remember correctly, the only woman in the book who runs her house herself), generous, and crotchety. Basically, I want to be her when I grow up. And also now. “Janet! Donkeys!”
3. Rosa Dartle, David Copperfield. The companion to Mrs. Steerforth and lover of James Steerforth (as in, she loves him, not as in, they make love). James doesn’t love her back but that doesn’t stop him from flirting mercilessly with her–this unrequited and lifelong love combined with the back-and-forth of James’s flirtations has warped Rosa into a bitter, sarcastic, ice cold woman. She’s fascinating and awful and hilarious and the worst.
4. The Dedlocks, Bleak House. One of my favorite marriages in literature. Lady Dedlock is bored and haughty but kind; Sir Dedlock is grumpy and conservative but deeply loving toward his wife. There are secrets on secrets on secrets, but the couple’s true regard for one another is a pleasure to read.
5. Madame Defarge, A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens’s Reign of Terror in the form of a lady who knits a lot. A villain who pursues the deaths of innocent people in order to work through her own (justified) grief and rage.
7. Smike, Nicholas Nickleby. A companion and friend of Nicholas, who he meets at a “school” where both are starved and beaten. Smike is disabled physically and mentally, and I honestly spent the rest of the book after the boys’ escape from the school just wanting him to be happy. Alas, this is Dickens, and the totally innocent often suffer the worst fates.
9. Mrs. Edith Granger Dombey, Dombey and Sons. A shallow and proud woman who marries Dombey for his money and hates herself for it. Their marriage is a disaster, as Dombey is unable to control her and she is unable to stand him. Eventually, even her love for her step-daughter can’t hold her, and Edith runs off. She is such an interesting contrast to Dombey: flawed, but totally self-aware.
10. Old Krook, Bleak House. HE SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTS.