Liminal compositions of the child-adult and the adult-child in the novels of Charles Dickens

Phelps, Sophie E. (2020) Liminal compositions of the child-adult and the adult-child in the novels of Charles Dickens. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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My thesis argues that Charles Dickens populated his novels with liminal characters who exist in the space between childhood and adulthood. The creation of such characters allowed Dickens to engage with a range of themes, some of which were too controversial to refer to explicitly, and therefore needed to be embedded within the narratives. The aim of the thesis is to highlight the significance of such characters and the way Dickens uses their liminality to create subtext within his novels. Separating the thesis into five chapters I begin with a discussion of ‘The Carer’ in Chapter One, where I discuss characters who are liminal because of their roles as carers in some form or other. In Chapter Two I discuss ‘Mental Capacities: The Mind of a Child’ in which I analyse characters who are afflicted by mental health conditions or learning difficulties and are rendered liminal as a result. Chapter Three focuses on ‘The Infantilised Woman and the Child-Husband’ where I consider how Dickens uses married liminal characters to highlight the necessity of allowing middle-class women to escape the perpetual child-wife state desired by society. In Chapter Four I reveal how Dickens uses liminal characters to highlight the danger faced by working-class children of falling into prostitution. My last chapter focuses on the “Blakean Element” present in Dickens’s fiction, and how liminal characters are often used to deliver the message or the moral of the novel. By analysing how Dickens uses the liminal space between childhood and adulthood, I am able to offer a fresh analysis of Dickens’s novels. Recognising the significance of the liminal space allows both the everyday reader and the literary critic to better understand the ways in which Dickens pushed for societal change in his fiction.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: Liminal, Liminality, Childhood, Adulthood, Dickens
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2021 12:00
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:52

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