The Common Good

Happy Birthday Charlie! Dickens' 200th Celebrated Worldwide

Google's Dickens doodle.
Google's Dickens doodle.

“Come in, and know me better man”
~ Ghost of Christmas Present, A Christmas Carol

As the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens is celebrated around the world today, it seems like a great opportunity to get to know the author a little better.

And where else would a tech-minded person like myself head first? Why the Google Doodle of course!

And haven’t they done well?

One click and you are transported to a virtual library of many of Dickens’ works, free to be read by any who are interested

For an overview of why, 200 years on, Dickens is still an important part of the British and global literary landscape, take a look at a website devoted to the bicentenary of his birth, full of events taking place around the world to mark the day.

The celebrations were led by the authors namesake (and heir to the British throne) Prince Charles in a ceremony that included many of Dickens’ decendents.

And whether we feel like we are living in the best of times, or the worst of times, the themes of Dickens’ works are still relevant ,possibly more so than any other time since his books were first written.

Veteran religion scribe Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune explores Dickens and religion in"A Tale of Two Views." She writes, "Dickens, a member of the Church of England (Anglican), believed deeply in Jesus as savior and in his moral teachings, but many of the novelist’s most avowedly Christian characters represent the worst in religion: greed, hypocrisy, indifference to human suffering, arrogance, self-righteousness and theological bullying."

The Christian Science Monitor calls Dickens “a 19thcentury voice for the 99 percent”, referring to works including Oliver Twist and Little Dorrit as examples of concerns not so different to those of today – social injustice, financial chaos and beyond.

MSNBC asks the question, Why do Dickens characters still resonate 200 years on?

The celebrations are also an opportunity to see what has changed since the time that Dickens wrote. One area in which some things haven’t changed all that much, according to The Guardian, is in trying to tackle the problem of child illiteracy, particularly in poor communities.

Channel 4, a UK television station examines more of the Victorian-era social issues that persist today – poverty, crime, inequality.

And for those of you firmly planted in the 21stCentury, here’s what Dickens work may have looked like if he’d been constrained to the 140-character limit of Twitter!

Think you’re a Dickens expert? Why not try your luck in this ‘fiendishly difficult’ quiz?

"What larks!"

Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

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