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The starving orphan seeking a second helping of gruel.
The spinster wasting away in her tattered wedding dress.
The stone-hearted miser plagued by the ghost of Christmas past.
More than a century after his death,
these remain recognizable figures from the work of Charles Dickens.
So striking is his body of work that it gave rise to its own adjective.
But what are the features of Dickens's writing that make it so special?
Dickens’s fiction brims with anticipation through brooding settings, plot twists, and mysteries.
These features of his work kept his audience wanting more.
When first published, his stories were serialized,
meaning they were released a few chapters at a time in affordable literary journals
and only later reprinted as books.
This prompted fevered speculation over the cliffhangers and revelations he devised.
Serialization not only made fiction available to a wider audience and kept them reading,
but increased the hype around the author himself.
Dickens became particularly popular for his wit,
which he poured into quirky characters and satiric scenarios.
His characters exhibit the sheer absurdity of human behavior,
and their names often personify traits or social positions,
like the downtrodden Bob Cratchit,
the groveling Uriah Heap,
and the cheery Septimus Crisparkle.
Dickens set these colorful characters against intricate social backdrops, which mimic the society he lived in.
For instance, he often considered the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.
During this period, the lower classes experienced sordid working and living conditions.
Dickens himself experienced this hardship as a child
when he was forced to work in a boot blacking factory after his father was sent to debtors' prison.
This influenced his depiction of the Marshalsea prison in Little Dorrit,
where the titular character cares for her convict father.
Prisons, orphanages, or slums may seem grim settings for a story,
but they allowed Dickens to shed light on
how his society's most invisible people lived.
In Nicholas Nickleby,
Nicholas takes a job with the schoolmaster Wackford Squeers.
He soon realizes that Squeers is running a scam
where he takes unwanted children from their parents for a fee
and subjects them to violence and deprivation.
Oliver Twist also deals with the plight of children in the care of the state,
illustrating the brutal conditions of the workhouse
in which Oliver pleads with Mr. Bumble for food.
When he flees to London, he becomes ensnared in a criminal underworld.
These stories frequently portray Victorian life as grimy, corrupt, and cruel.
But Dickens also saw his time as one in which old traditions were fading away.
London was becoming the incubator of the modern world through new patterns in industry, trade, and social mobility.
Dickens's London is therefore a dualistic space:
a harsh world that is simultaneously filled with wonder and possibility.
For instance, the enigma of Great Expectations
centers around the potential of Pip,
an orphan plucked from obscurity by an anonymous benefactor and propelled into high society.
In his search for purpose,
Pip becomes the victim of other people’s ambitions for him
and must negotiate with a shadowy cast of characters.
Like many of Dickens’s protagonists,
poor Pip's position is constantly destabilized,
just one of the reasons why reading Dickens is the best of times for the reader,
while being the worst of times for his characters.
Dickens typically offered clear resolution by the end of his novels,
– with the exception of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
The novel details the disappearance of the orphan Edwin under puzzling circumstances.
However, Dickens died before the novel was finished
and left no notes resolving the mystery.
Readers continue to passionately debate over who Dickens intended as the murderer,
and whether Edwin Drood was even murdered in the first place.
Throughout many adaptations,
literary homages,
and the pages of his novels,
Dickens’s sparkling language and panoramic worldview continue to resonate.
Today, the adjective Dickensian often implies squalid working or living conditions.
But to describe a novel as Dickensian is typically high praise,
as it suggests a story in which true adventure and discovery occur in the most unexpected places.
Although he often explored bleak material,
Dickens’s piercing wit never failed to find light in the darkest corners.
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【TED-Ed】狄更斯的作品特色和價值 (Why should you read Charles Dickens? - Iseult Gillespie)

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Jenny 發佈於 2018 年 8 月 7 日    Jenny 翻譯    jenny 審核

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「這是最好的時代,也是最壞的時代。」( "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.") 這句耳熟能詳的引言便是出自於狄更斯的作品《雙城記》,它在描述法國大革命時社會動盪的景象。狄更斯的作品不僅在文學界受到高度讚賞,一般大眾就算沒有真正拜讀過他的作品,對於他的作品也略知一二,可見其重要地位。如果你還沒認識狄更斯,一起來看看這支影片吧!

1waste away0:13
waste away 是「以不健康的方式逐漸消瘦」的意思,和 lose weight 不一樣,lose weight 是比較中立的說法,waste away 為負面的意味。
The patient wasted away from terminal cancer.
這病患因癌症末期而日漸消瘦。


waste away 也可以說是「浪費某事物」,像是時間、金錢等等。後面若要加動詞,則須將動詞變成動名詞 (V+ing) 的形式。
They are wasting their lives away playing video games.
他們終日打電動虛度光陰。

He wasted all his money away and had to live in poverty.
他揮霍錢財,所以變得窮困潦倒。


*同場加映:
經典饒舌爭霸戰:拉斯普丁 VS 史達林 ([Rasputin vs Stalin. Epic Rap Battles of History.)


2be plagued by0:17
plague 當名詞是「瘟疫」或是「令人討厭的人事物」。而 be plagued byplague 是當動詞用,整個是指「被困擾、糾纏」,尤指被反覆的打擾。
My dad has been plagued by allergies all his life.
我爸爸一生為過敏所苦。


*同場加映:
【TED】歐伊·蒂利特·萊特:同性戀的五十道漸層 (iO Tillett Wright: Fifty Shades of Gay)


3satiric1:19
satiricsatire 的形容詞,意即「諷刺的」。在英文裡諷刺有很多種說法,而中文雖然都翻成諷刺,但英文裡其實有細分成不同類型:

satire : 名詞,指藉由模仿別人來暴露其缺點或矛盾之處,中文裡是反諷的意味,像是美國綜藝節目《週六夜現場》(Saturday Night Live) 就常常用夾帶這種諷刺的喜劇作品惡搞時下文化或政治現象。形容詞為 satiric。
Everything in this movie should be taken with a grain of salt as it is simply satire and not fact.
對於電影節情的一切不應該盡信,因為這不過是一種諷刺罷了,而非事實。


irony : 名詞,指事情的結果和預期的恰恰相反,且結果是很奇怪或好笑的。像是你預期結果是黑色的,結果出來是白色的,與原本設想的正好相反,不是灰色或其他顏色。形容詞為 ironic。
The professor claims to despise plagiarism, but plagiarized a student's thesis, and still doesn’t see the irony in the situation.
這教授書自稱看不起抄襲行為,但自己卻抄襲學生的論文,多麼諷刺啊!


sarcasm : 名詞,是指「用虛偽的言論或其他表現方式挖苦某人事物」。形容詞為 sarcastic。
I don't think he meant what he said. I detected a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
我覺得他並不是真心的,因為我感受到挖苦諷刺的意味。


4shed light on2:20
shed light on sth. 是照亮某事物的意思,延伸義就是「說明、解釋清楚某事物」。寫作時常常可以用到這句,像是在文章第一段結尾就可以用 shed light on + 你的主題來帶出接下幾段要探討的主旨,這個句型很好用喔!
Perhaps you could help shed some light on the situation?
也許你能幫忙解釋一下這個狀況?


*同場加映:
【TED-Ed】什麼?打哈欠也會傳染?! (Why is yawning contagious? - Claudia Aguirre)


5piercing4:53
piercing 在影片中是「敏銳、有洞察力的」的意思,piercing wit 就是敏銳的洞察力。 pierce 當動詞是「刺穿、突破、洞察」的意思,所以 pierce 變為形容詞 piercing 的意思也一樣喔!
I can't lie to her face when she looks straight at me with her piercing eyes.
當她洞悉一切的眼睛直直盯著我時,我實在沒辦法說謊。


piercing 另一個意思是「(聲音) 刺耳、(風) 刺骨的」。
Andy doesn't like children since he can't tolerate their piercing screams.
安迪不喜歡小孩子,因為他無法忍受他們刺耳的尖叫聲。

It breaks my heart to see those kids shivering in the piercing wind.
看到那些孩子們在寒風中瑟瑟發抖的樣子,我實在不忍於心。


piercing 也可當名詞,就是指身上的打洞,例如:穿耳洞 (ear piercing)、穿鼻環 (nose piercing)、穿舌環 (tongue piercing) 等。
The beauty parlor offers ear piercing, massages, facials, and manicures.
這家美容院提供穿耳洞、按摩、臉部美容和美甲服務。


不知道大家看了這支影片後有沒有想讀讀看狄更斯的小說呢?小 V 認為從小說改編的影視作品入門是個不錯的選擇喔!

文/ Liang-Chun Chen

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