A/N: What brings me back over the rainbow from Oz you ask? This was a project for school (our pre-Christmas Carol paper) on Charles Dickens. We had to research him and do an interview (in the time period he was alive). Hey, it might not be the BEST interview you've ever read, but I'm pretty sure I got A-plus (my teacher had me pint out 2!) Anyways…I guess this qualifies at a story???? I'm putting it under Charles Dickens….but if anyone knows if this wouldn't be considered story, please tell me so I can put it on Fiction Press or something. Thanks! This is definetely my longest story yet!
One Minute until Midnight
Charles Dickens is the most beloved author of our time, and the reasons why are too great to name. He has shown us the world from a different perspective. With his darker stories of the hardships humans must face, and the warm, good-natured plots, Dickens has earned the title of "Author".
In 1866, Dickens learned that he was not well, but continued on with his works, against the advice of the doctors. His condition has only worsened over the last few years. And now, in 1870, the people of the world fear that Dickens's time is coming to a close.
Dickens has agreed to one last interview, and I have had the honor of giving it. As I sit here, with Charles Dickens himself, I ponder what has led Dickens to a fate of fame and fortune. What makes up the man behind the numerous masterpieces? What was his fuel in writing such amazing works of literature? What impact do his novels have on our world today, and will that impact last until tomorrow?
"Hello Mr. Dickens. It certainly is a great honor to me you. I thank you for allowing me to give you this interview," I say in greeting.
He gives a smile as he replies, "The honor is mine."
With the greetings out of the way, I continue on to the interview, starting with the beginning of our favorite author's life.
"My first question, Mr. Dickens, is: what was your childhood like?"
Dickens doesn't quite give a straight-forward answer, instead giving us general information.
"There were many aspects of my childhood that were both good and bad. I was happy as a child. I'd often spend hours dreaming about my heroes from stories I'd read, such as Robin Crusoe, Roderick Random, and Pergerine Pickle. I was rather close with my older sister Fanny.
"My youth was a complicated thing…I was forced to grow up sooner than any child should be. Yet I am grateful for the first few innocent years of my life."
I decide to dig a little deeper than that.
"Could you please describe your life growing up?" Knowing that his youth is a touchy subject, I try to tread lightly.
"This isn't normally something I would share with anyone, if you could please give me a moment," he replies truthfully.
"Of course, of course." There is a brief moment of silence as Dickens prepares his answer.
"My family was pleasant. My mother was especially caring. But my father had a serious issue with money, and eventually got into so much debt that my family was thrown in the debtors' jail. I was the oldest boy, so I was sent to the work at Warren's Blacking Factory at the tender age of twelve.
"The experience was one that I don't like to remember. I suppose everyone has demons, and these are mine. The emotional turmoil and mental scarring I was subjected to is, still to this day, barely tolerable. Even though I spent only a short period of time there (due to my father pulling together enough money to pay the debt) my attitude towards life had abruptly changed.
"My mother argued that I should stay in the workhouse, but my father saved me from that terrible fate. For the next three years I attended a day school in London. Then when I was fifteen I became an office boy for a lawyer, and I would study shorthand at night.
"But overall, I was left with scars that would never heal, no matter how much time passed," Dickens shares. The fact that he is being open with me, while I've never meant him before, is very promising. I can hear in his voice that the hidden emotions deep within this man are sheltered.
"I honor your ability to share this with me. Thank you.
"My next question is: Who was Maria Beadnell, and how was she important in your life?"
He answers this question as what it is: a thing of the past, an event from which he has moved on.
"Maria was my first love. Her parents disapproved of me because of the difference in the social class, so they ended the relationship. Her presence in my life was important because it showed me that love gave the world a bit of light in the darkness.
"As I look back on it now, she was probably just playing with my affections, but I was too in love with her to realize that. I did manage to move on, ending up marrying my ex-wife, Catherine."
"Where did you get the idea for the character Wilkins Micawber from your novel David Copperfield?" I ask, jumping to the next subject.
"Wilkins Micawber was a character modeled after my father." His answer is short and sweet. But, alas, I like detailed replies!
"What are some of the characteristics of those two personalities?"
"Micawber and my father both had a problem with debt, landing them in jail. The inability to handle money is common among the two men." Very well put, in my opinion.
I continue my questioning with, "I understand that you tried to rid London of workhouses. Why is that?" Now with the knowledge of his dark past, I look forward to Dickens's response.
"After my experience in the workhouses, I understood what they truly were. To me they seemed a near-equivalence to a jail for the poor. Workhouses are terrible places; families are separated, there are no civil liberties, and human dignity is destroyed. The environment is crude and harsh. With the time I spent in a workhouse, I saw the darker side of life, and it seemed to over-shadow all of the light. Workhouses are no place for any being," as he speaks with his heart, I see how driven this unique individual is.
I now move on to the topic of his writings. Seeing as how A Christmas Carol is his biggest hit, my question pertains to that story.
"Your novel A Christmas Carol changed the face of Christmas in many ways. Could you please share with us some of those ways?"
"Before I wrote A Christmas Carol, very few people had the time to celebrate Christmas. When the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree and singing carols, along with the first Christmas card, came to England, Christmas had a new meaning. A Christmas Carol reached the heart and soul of Christmas, and thus put the joy back into that special holiday. This story made people realize that Christmas wasn't just another day of the year. I believe A Christmas Carol brought the people of the world together, and made everything else fade away, except for the positive feelings, even if it be for just one short day. It made people realize that to lead a life worth living, you can't forget that the people around you can help you through." His outstanding answers and words of wisdom help me to appreciate this man a little more. I truly am astonished at Dickens's ability to see every aspect of life.
"Still on the subject of your books, where do you get your inspiration to write?" I waste no time in asking the next question.
"My books often show the darker side of life and human beings. My troubling childhood experiences became my energy to write those segments and storylines. Human nature and behavior are seen in my novels, and I based that nature on what I had learned and observed in the past. I also believe that my being a moralist gave me fuel to write some of my novels."
The next question I ask stays on the topic of people.
"You seem to understand a lot about the citizens and society of England. How is that?"
"When I was a fairly young adult, I would take long walks through London. I would reflect on what my senses picked up; the sights, smells, noises. I would observe all types of people, places, and interactions. I wrote a few short pieces, in which I would do nothing but describe the observations I made." Dickens explains.
My next question pertains to his love life.
"How did you become involved with Ellen Ternan?"
He seems to not be offended at all at my sense of prying into his life in such a way; amazing. His reply is the downright truth, and nothing more.
"While my theatrical troupe was performing The Frozen Deep for the Queen, Ellen joined the cast. Suddenly I found myself in love again. I don't know if my marriage wasn't satisfying me, or that I just didn't feel that spark anymore, but I now loved another woman. My wife and I had been going through a period of temperamental disputes, and we eventually separated. Ellen took another place in my heart from then on."
"How do you feel about your novel David Copperfield? It is said that this particular book is your most autobiographical. Is this true?" I briefly touch back on the subject of Dickens's books.
"David Copperfield reflects aspects of my life in many different ways. Some of the characters are based off of people in my life today, including me. The events in this novel reflect my childhood and my feelings about it. The book helped me understand a little bit more about myself. In many ways, it helped me grow up. Finally I had overcome my past, and in doing so I had written a rather successful novel of which I am proud." Once again he has brought forth an answer from deep within himself. The mystery of Charles Dickens is nearly solved.
My last question deals with his health, and how it is affecting him.
"In 1864 your over-working began to take its toll on your health. And in the last few years it has worsened considerably. How do feel about your declining health?"
Charles Dickens supplies an answer that is so wonderful, and I couldn't have asked for anything better. His true self shines through once and for all.
"I knew that my health wasn't at its greatest while I was touring these past few years, but I would take a doctor to the readings who would be with me at all times. My works are important to me, perhaps more important than anything else in my life. They reflect who I am and my perspective of the world in which I am living. I know that my time is drawing to a close, yet why should I stop and give in? If this is who I am, and writing is how I express that, then why should I let anything stop me from sharing with the world how I perceive it? I still have my chances to change this world for hopes that there is a brighter tomorrow, and that tomorrow isn't that far off from today. Until my lungs take in that last bit of air, I will be all that I can be, and nothing less. The world never ceases to go on, so why should we waste even a moment of our small time on this planet? When my clock strikes midnight, I will die, yet I hope that the literature I left behind will not die alongside me."
And, we too can only hope for nothing more. A man will come and go, but the ever-lasting affect of his ideas and masterpieces will stay forever. Our world has changed, for the better, and a large portion of our thanks goes to Charles Dickens, for making the ride of life worth-while.