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The writings of Charles Dickens were often critical of society and government. This satire, Little Dorrit was also an outlet for Dickens' opinion of prison, particularly debtor's prisons. There people (including Dickens' own) who failed to pay their debts were imprisoned, paradoxically unable to work, until the debt was repaid. The story of Little Dorrit (whose father is imprisoned for debt) tells of the courtship between herself and Arthur Clennam and demonstrates the grim effects of imprisonment on those within as well as those beyond but whose lives are inextricably intertwined.
Mary Barton is a millworker's daughter who comes into contact with the son of a wealthy family. She must decide between her devoted lover and the possibilities of joining a middle class family. The book explores the British lower classes' frustration, the false sense of class mobility of the 1800s, at a time when the working class were not able to vote. Much of this novel is autobiographical, incorporating incidents from Gaskell's own life.
The story Master and Man tells the tale of a master and his peasant who journey to another town for business in a blizzard. Lost on their way, the peasant begins to suffer from hypothermia verging on death. The master nonetheless feels compelled to press on in the journey until a moral revelation befalls him. How will he try to save his peasant? A very moving story. Classic Tolstoy story-telling.
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