Montreal Dickens Fellowship Study Questions: “Little Dorrit"
October 11, 2022
Book I, Chapters 1-8
- Dickens uses a description of Marseille to introduce the novel. Are you hooked? Do you want to read more?
- We are introduced to two prisoners in jail. Compare and contrast them.
- A recurrent image in “Little Dorrit” is that of travellers on the road of life, thrown together by fate. What is your first impression of the travellers who meet in quarantine? Is their confinement in keeping with a prison theme?
- Setting is of great importance in “Little Dorrit”. Indeed it has been said that London may be described as one of the characters! Dickens’ description of the streets, upon Arthur’s return set the tone for the mood of the entire book. They are labyrinth-like and the city is shown as crumbling ruins. Find examples in these chapters of this imagery and continue to look for them as you read on.
- In “Little Dorrit”, Dickens’ outward descriptions of his characters meld with their inward personalities. Show how Mrs. Clenham, the Flintwinches and Little Dorrit demonstrate this effective technique.
- Dickens frequently makes use of inanimate objects to “tell the story”. Show how the description of Arthur’s room and the rest of the Clenham house add to the overall impression of decay, hopelessness and sense of foreboding.
- How does the mystery of the watch, Mrs. Clenham’s refusal to discuss the possibility of some un-righted wrong and Affery’s dream add to our suspense?
- How do you think Dickens’ own experience in the Marshalsea affected his writing about it in the novel? Do you think Mr. Dorrit reflects his own father?
- Another major theme of the novel is that of unbalance or unnatural contradictions. E.g.: The child looking after the parent. The small being more powerful than the big, prison being safer than freedom. Discuss.
- Do you think Amy Dorrit is a likely heroine? Why or why not?