Little Dorrit Final Recap (#DickensChallenge 2021)

Many readers know that Trent and I collaborated on the #DickensChallenge, which involved reading Little Dorrit and asking others to join in (February 9th to June 13th).

If you joined in, thanks. Trent will be raffling off a $25.00 Amazon gift card for one lucky contributor. If you did not join in and want to read the book – The Little Dorrit book is here online 


Part 1: My Experience with Reading Little Dorrit 

  • The book is really long and has some “slow” sections.  I enjoyed the reading whenever I could get some flow, but it was too easy to walk away from this book.  I kept putting it off and then crammed to get more of it read this June. I imagine that this book did very well released in the serialized form between 1855 and 1857.  I could see people lapping up the releases and waiting anxiously for the next installment to arrive. That was at a time when home libraries were rare. 
  • Some of the major subjects in this book included romantic love, marriage, siblings and in-laws, debtors prison, children in prison, poverty, wealth, inheritance and succession, father and daughter relationship, art, and London’s culture and society layers.
  • I found some escape with this book.  Going back in time was nice and then some of the human characteristics are timeless. Even though this was fiction, a lot of the ideas were based on real-life experiences. So of course we have Dickens’ wake-up calls and his social responsibility messages that trickle through the stories woven in Little Dorrit. This book offered us these combos: Poverty and wealth, generosity and greed, joy and misery, love fulfilled and love denied, family togetherness and family strife, contentment and discontentment, wise folks and the fools, the pure ones and the evil ones, humility and ostentatiousness, honesty and dishonesty, hard labor and no work at all, serving and being served, concern for others and being self-absorbed, having grit and being weak, art museums and prison cells, scrapping meals and elaborate feasts, stuck behind walls with little and then traveling abroad with plenty.
  • When Derrick shared page #613 from his copy of the book, it seemed to be a microcosm of the Little Dorrit story. After the Dorrits inherited a lot of money, they traveled and life was very different from being confined to debtor’s prison.  Little Dorrit was displaced and did her best to adjust, but she was a “little lonely and a little low.”  She also has love for Arthur and so that adds to being displaced. Here is the text – and notice the tasty alliteration in the first line: “If Little Dorrit found herself left a little lonely and a little low that night, nothing would have done so much against her feeling of depression as the being able to sit at work by her father, as in the old time, and help him to his supper and his rest. But that was not to be thought of now, when they sat in the state-equipage with Mrs General on the coach-box. And as to supper! If Mr Dorrit had wanted supper, there was an Italian cook and there was a Swiss confectioner, who must have put on caps as high as the Pope’s Mitre, and have performed the mysteries of Alchemists in a copper-saucepaned laboratory below, before he could have got it.”

1- little dorrit page 613 from derrick - key passge

  • The satire of the politics and social layers added interest, especially with the Circumlocution Office paperwork and red tape, lack of assistance, and annoyance. In the preface of the book, Dickens noted, “If I might offer any apology for so exaggerated a fiction as the Barnacles and the Circumlocution Office….”  Exaggerated it was, but it also made a great point about the “political system” and problems that still exist today. The injustices of the legal system are something we should always be monitoring. 
  • I had a few digital copies to choose from and the one I ended up reading did not allow highlights. At first this disappointed, but then I rather enjoyed not adding notes or colored highlights. It kind of freed me up.
  • Because I watched the BBC (2008) Little Dorrit miniseries a while back, many of the actors from that series came to mind as I read the text Even after seeing the original illustrations, I still thought of the mini series actors.
  • Speaking of the mini series, one of my goals for reading this book was to see if the Little Dorrit in the book aligned with the Little Dorrit I perceived in the series.  My conclusion: The Little Dorrit in the book had a little more spunk and was a little less less fragile than the Little Dorrit depicted in the mini series. However, I now appreciate Claire Foy’s performance as Little Dorrit.  I watched a little bit more of the mini series this weekend and because it is all now so much more familiar, I was able to appreciate Foy’s performance. tumblr_p25f389Q3b1wmwbi7o5_r1_250

Part 2: Trent’s Summary  

Connecting with Trent was a highlight of this reading endeavor. We both did “not” tackle the book head on and I am eager to read his recap post this week. 

So thanks Trent – for saying “yes” to this little reading challenge and for following through.

 I love how Trent summarized this book -and had topics of social advocacy and class divides well noted. Here is what Trent wrote in his post last week  (Here) 

“Dickens was always a crusader for social justice, but in ways Little Dorrit was his largest, most personal attack in that direction.  It is a great critique of (at that time) Britain’s lack of a safety net for its citizens.  It went on to be a great satire about class and class relations, the stratification of society, government bureaucracy (the “Circumlocution Office” was created to show How Not to Do It – i.e., how to prevent anything from being accomplished), treatment of industrial workers (medieval peasants had much, much better lives that Victorian industrial workers) and pretty much everything that he saw wrong with society of the mid-19th century. Imprisonment, both literal (the first chapter is in a prison, and much action is in the debtors prison, Marshalsea) and figurative, are major themes with almost every character being held in the prison by England’s rigid and strict social structure. 

A side note about that last sentence – I was shocked when I read Oliver Twist that at the end Oliver’s aunt marries a very rich man, an ultra-successful barrister and a member of the House of Lords, but he is forced to give up literally everything to marry a woman whose sister had a child, Oliver, out of wedlock.   What?!? And Dickens doesn’t make a big deal about it, except to show how strong their love is… There are class divides in Little Dorrit that artificially force people apart, but this time Dickens does take aim at these stupid cultural divides.”  

UPDATE: Trent’s post with his final thoughts on Little Dorrit is HERE

Here is a snippet from his final post:

“After that slow, tiresome beginning, I really enjoyed the book.  It was often very serious, but had some very light moments and a lot of humor.  The political/social commentary and satire is still with us today, even if at a slightly lesser level than then.  Dickens is a master at manipulating emotion when he wants to be.  There is a lot of human interest in the story.  It is interesting to take a peek back to this time and place and walk the streets of London in the late 1820s (London is almost a character in the book).  Even with some of Dickens’ typecasting, there were a couple of surprises with the characters, none better than the deepening of that dirty, tug of a hired fist, Pancks.  And really, after the first couple of hundred pages, it runs very smoothly and doesn’t feel as long and drawn out as the beginning.  It was enjoyable.

But then, it is long and drawn out… 

And there are some other things I didn’t like, most happening in the last 100 pages, i.e., I wasn’t very satisfied with the end.”

(go to trent’s blog to read the full final post)


Part 3: Derrick’s Shares 

Connecting with Derrick was also fun.  He reads so many books and shares a lot of scanned images on his blog – and so when he shared his many Little Dorrit posts, I was very grateful.  Here are some of the images that will give you a feel for the book. (Click on the image to see the larger version)

Derrick’s Feb 17th post here had something masterful.  Derrick’s sentences had such a nice rhythm as he shared about his progress. I wanted to include his words because part of the #Dickens Challenge was to celebrate writing –  and this was so rich. Derrick wrote: 

“Rain beating a clamorous tattoo on the Modus roof; repetitive rapping from a thumping car radio; abrupt slamming of doors; crashing gears of handbrake ratchets; muffled muttering of masked voices; clicking stilettos clopping through puddles – all combined to distract me from the last chapters of ‘Little Dorrit’ as I waited in the car while Jackie shopped in Tesco this morning. Fortunately the rain had stopped when she brought her trolley load for me to unload into the boot. Heavy rain soon set in again, and I finished reading my Folio Society edition of Charles Dickens’s ‘Little Dorrit’.

For fear of spoiling the story I will not add my own detailed review of this tale…. which has been printed in many editions and filmed for a BBC series in 2008 to the many that may be found on the internet.


Closing Notes 

Thanks so much for your visit today – and hope you enjoyed this post. Also, if you did not get to join in, we might do this challenge again next year – but with a shorter book from Dickens.  Keep you posted. 








24 thoughts on “Little Dorrit Final Recap (#DickensChallenge 2021)

  1. So much of Amy Dorrit’s character was the little things and the inner strength. From the outside she seemed mild and meek, while she was the the strong bonds that held everything together. I can very much understand how it would be difficult to portray that as an actress! There are some who can show great inner life with just their faces, but it is difficult, and in this case it would have to be subtle.
    Anyway, I am just about to post my last post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. that is a great point about actors using their face and body movements to portray extras.
      it reminds me how some acting today is so bad. maybe it is the sea of shows out there and good looks or money getting people into acting jobs when their skills and talents are either not there or they are undeveloped – so in a way – i often prefer actors that have had theater experience – but then some have raw talent

      and in the 1980 pride and prejudice – the actress that played elizabeth had great facial expressions and was a great actor/actress
      anyhow – be over soon

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure if that’s actors don’t come in from the theater as much any more or what, but you are right that so many don’t understand the nuances of good acting. There are always some, of course. On the other hand, perhaps we just remember the great actors of a generation and forget how many awful ones there were as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. hmm that is something to consider “perhaps we just remember the great actors of a generation and forget how many awful ones there were as well” – but I do think there is a huge difference between acting for a scene that can be reshot and edited – as compared to live recording and theater – guess there is a place for both
          — and getting back to little dorrit – two things
          first, I enjoyed your final post about it so much that I decided to stop a quick read and went back when I had tea – to savor the post and the replies (like Marilyn’s and a couple others) and will add my feedback tomorrow
          second, I forgot to add some of my favorite scenes from the book My mind was so focused on the bigger picture I forgot to mention a few of my top takeaways
          the first one was when Mr Dorrit rushed back to Italy – (spoiler) it was near his death we would later find out – but as he rushed on that trip – almost in a panic to get home – I thought it was brilliant – I was right there with him as he kept waiting to reach Italy again – then his reverting back to being the Father of the Marshal Sea at the formal party had so much juicy stuff layered in (that societal stuff you mentioned)
          the second was Little Dorrit’s “grace” to Arthur’s “mother” – the forgiveness and the gentle spirit Dorrit had transformed this old woman – the grace melts away the toughness and as it dissipated and led to disclosure – we saw more of human behaviors and the pain with secrecy and perhaps the bondage of hiding a wrong – whew – and perhaps this grace dispensed by Dorrit later field Victor Hugo – and maybe connected to Javert (Les Mis) and his opposite character – unable to dispense grace and rigid
          the third takeaway was message that not everyone wants a lot of money and in a society that really respects wealth (heck – what society has not) well it was refreshing to see a character to defined by money and we saw her without it, with it, without it, and with again – hahahah

          Okay – be over soon and in the meantime. thanks again for collaborating – it was fun to discuss the wonderful word of literature in such an informal way!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Years ago, studios were like baseball teams and had the actors on contract. Like a baseball team, they made sure that the people on contract were able to develop and grow. Now the actors have to rely on themselves to grow. Of course you are right about the difference between live and filmed.
          Great take-aways. I do think Mrs. Clannam did like Little Dorrit but was stuck in that resentful prison and refused to give her her due. And Amy did treat her back in a way that was kind, even the kindness of never letting Arthur know the truth, so the woman who was his mother as he grew up was always his mother.
          I agree about the money thing.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. enjoyed your reply – and thanks again for collaborating with me on this -it was a lot of fun and my head s slowly coming out of the world of Little Dorrit.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Almost as long as the book, here is my final post:

    Quick comment, I think my book had the original illustrations as well. The drawing of “Little Mother” you posted was in it. I do reall like the ones Derrick shared – more modern, but seem to capture the people better. One problem with the illustrations was that they were occasionally too light for the content of the book itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Trent – good point about the photos perhaps being too light – and I LOVED your post so much – your objective critique and personal reflections was most enjoyable to read.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some of the illustrations just somehow seemed so shallow, so if I saw them before I read that part, I almost wouldn’t catch the depth of the words. A few times I even went back and reread a few paragraphs and was like, whoa, that said a bit more than I thought!


  3. Some really fascinating insights, Yvette, on one of the Dickens novels I haven’t read, despite the fact that I did a degree in English Literature and chose the mid 19th century as my specialist period! I’m sure the books did well from being published in weekly serial format, in days with no tv, movies or recorded music to entertain them. It was either read a book or have another child 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahaha love that “read a book or have another child” – or go to work or get to the farm perhaps?
      your background is rather interesting – but i am not surprised this book did not make your read list. it was good but i guess not all
      books make the study list for schools –
      have a nice day

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair point, but life was definitely more limited in those days. This one was never set as a course text, either at school or uni, and there were already enough long books to read that I didn’t choose others for fun! I actually changed course part way through, did a minor in history of art. The books were shorter and had lots of pictures 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. that sounds so interesting to get the minor in art history – and your comment reminded me of a few older art books that I have – ONE OF THEM FROM early 1970s brags that it comes with so many “colored images” – which is something that we take for granted today – the abundant rich color images everywhere

          Liked by 1 person

        2. The best decision I made while I was there. There was so much crossover between art and literature in the mid 19th century and it gave me a much better understanding of both. I had books like that too!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. love the challenge you presented and the extrapolations shared from the book Yvette. Glad everyone participated in the history of a great nostalgic read in history.💖

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.