Early this morning I was driven to understand the meaning of the common phrase “Dickensian lens”. I get the feeling when I read this term in print that some who use it don’t have much depth of understanding as to what it means. I have no idea what it means. After doing a little research it is still unclear.
I found this definition of “Dickensian” in “Masterpiece Classic”. The source and purpose of this publication is not clear.
“Charles Dickens’ work continues to be so influential that the adjective
“Dickensian” is used today to describe something “of or like the novels
of Charles Dickens (especially with regard to poor social and economic
conditions),” according to WordNet at http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/
Search for current usages of the word in The New York Times archive at nytimes.com (put the term “Dickensian” in the search bar) or other newspapers in order to understand how “Dickensian” is used in different contexts. For example, a 2008 article in The New York Times describes Mumbai, India this way: “For the writer, the Dickensian lens offers an easy view of Mumbai: wealthy and poor, apartment-dwelling and slumdwelling, bulbous and malnourished.” (www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/”.
It is clear that the term refers to social commentary. But that’s all I see so far. Is Dickens still relevant today? I don’t see it. English literature professors do. In either case, does looking at a current situation in comparison to the way Dickens would describe it add any insight now? Again, I don’t see it, except perhaps in reinforcing that the human condition has always involved suffering.
I still don’t see why the trendiness of the term “Dickensian lens”.