Matthew MacFadyen as Arthur Clennam (Little Dorrit)
I've been flipping through a book I found at the library today - The Friendly Dickens, a sort of "Dickens for Dummies". In putting this book together, the author interviewed numerous critics, actors, and Dickens aficionados. Something that seemed to be coming through in some of the interviews, and even some of the author's own comments, was the belief that ardent fans of Dickens' novels are becoming a rare breed. The consensus seemed to be that the majority of devoted readers of Dickens are 50+, and that unless children and young adults are made to read Dickens in school, "they'll probably never read him at all" (see p. 369).
Claire Foy as Amy Dorrit (Little Dorrit)
Is this true to your own experience? Is this what you have observed? I don't have a lot of friends my own age who I know in person - the majority of my friends are online friends! And since internet users tend to congregate into different groups depending on their interests, most of my online friends are bookworms like myself - many of them are also Dickens fans. - Therefore, even though it may seem to me that a lot of younger people are still reading and enjoying Dickens today, this probably isn't an accurate reflection of the rest of society. . .
This scene always makes me cry. :-( (Bleak House)
It deeply saddens me to think that most of my generation may never read any Dickens or any of the other great novelists of the 19th century for their own pleasure. Just the thought of it makes me want to go out and "preach the gospel" of Dickens, trying to get as many people as possible to read his books!
Do young adults feel that Dickens is irrelevant? Boring? Too long-winded? Honestly, I don't think children and teenagers have any trouble getting through long books if they have the inclination - just look at the Harry Potter books, for instance!
Do bear in mind that the book I mentioned was published in 1998 - just before the recent slew of Dickens adaptations began, starting with Our Mutual Friend, and culminating in the BBC's two immensely popular series, Bleak House and Little Dorrit. Hopefully, all of these new Dickens adaptations will encourage people who normally wouldn't bother with Dickens to give his books a try. (I know this has certainly been the case with me!)
One only has to look at the 1995 adapation of Pride and Prejudice and the Austen revival that followed to see how just one really good TV or movie adaptation can have a domino effect on popular culture, bringing the works of a particular author into the spotlight. Do you think Bleak House has done this for Dickens? Are people (particular young adults and teens) finally starting to realise that Dickens' stories and characters are still very relevant (not to mention entertaining!) for us today?