My favorite paragraph in any novel is the first one in “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. In addition to being a fantastic writer, Dickens was a highly influential social reformer. This point is driven home in “Please Sir, I Want Some More,” a segment on the program “Big Ideas” on RN, from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, broadcast on 10/14/07. In this segment, host Terry Lane talks to Dickens biographer Jane Smiley and Professor David Paroissien, Editor of the Dickens Quarterly. When Dickens was a child his father fell deep into debt and as a result Charles had to go to work in a boot black factory and live with a highly unpleasant land lady. That experience gave him a lot of empathy for children with difficult lives. According to Smiley, Dickens broke with tradition by illustrating how mistreatment in childhood can lead to antisocial behavior in adulthood, including crime. Smiley contends that before Dickens popularized this enlightened view it was thought that people were criminals because they were born that way. Dickens also brought to light the appalling living conditions that poor Londoners had to endure. In this program an actor reads a strikingly powerful and eloquent excerpt from Oliver Twist, which describes living conditions in a slum in London.
To listen to the program, or download a podcast to listen to at your convenience, visit this URL below: