Not anonymous, Charles Dickens fathered a lot of characters
Updated: February 15, 2012 3:44PM
There’s no telling what all those kings and high and mighty potentates got up to in ancient times, but this may be a modern record:
One man fathered 989 children.
Maybe “fathered’’ isn’t the right world. “Created’’ might be more correct.
I’m talking about Charles Dickens, whose novels contain 989 named characters, i.e., people he created. I don’t imagine any other writer, not even Shakespeare, can make that claim. And though I’ve read most of Dickens’ novels, I never actually counted his characters myself. I got the count from my friend and colleague, the Internet.
I bring up Dickens because this year is his bicentennial. And Feb. 7 was his birthday. All around the world there is much hoopla this year about Dickens. You can join in. The Oak Park Public Library has all kinds of resources — books, films, periodicals and more — about Dickens.
Dip your toe into Dickens. Chances are you will enjoy meeting him and some of his 989 characters. Of course, Dickens’ novels take place in a different time and country. But what has kept his books in print and read for all these years is that they put before us life in all its humor and horror.
His characters have become part of our culture — Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Mr. Pickwick, Scrooge. And that just scratches the surface of the 989.
Dickens has something special to offer to us today in 2012. His novels are an antidote to a society that has little or no attention span. Today we multitask because we can’t bear to spend more than a minute or two on any one thing. We tweet because we can’t maintain a train of thought and prose for more than 140 characters.
Dickens’ books are long. Reading Dickens forces us to slow down, to savor, to see causes and results in human behavior, to get to know the characters by living with them for a period of time. Each Dickens novel is a world full of heartbreak and joy, of people we love and people we hate, of sadness and laughter. Dickens restores to us the human condition as a river instead of a series of electro-shocks.
I hope his bicentennial will garner Dickens the attention he deserves.
In fact, I’m waiting for him to receive the ultimate accolade — that he is a fake.
The debate rages whether Shakespeare really wrote his plays. How could a commoner without advanced education write such plays, plays with character from all levels of society? Couldn’t. So, someone else, some nobleman must have written Shakespeare’s plays.
Well, Dickens was a commoner. He didn’t attend college. He created characters (989 of them) from all levels of society.
How could a man with his background — or lack of background — have done that? Couldn’t. Somebody other than Dickens must be Dickens.
Do you think perhaps Disraeli was Dickens?