Little Dorrit Discussion Questions

The Pickwick Book Club is a community of local bookworms, students, and teachers who meet monthly to discuss Victorian novels. From January-May, 2018, we will study Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens.

Many thanks to Tara Thomas, Literature Ph.D. Candidate at UC Santa Cruz, for providing the following discussion questions. 

Date Chapters Questions
February 11 Book I:
Ch. 1-18
  1. Lionel Trilling writes that Little Dorrit “is more about society than any other of the novels, that it is about society in its very essence”. Why does incarceration feature so heavily in this most social of Dickens’s novels, and what might this say about incarceration in the nineteenth century imaginary?

  2. Given that Dickens began writing Little Dorrit (originally “Nobody’s Fault”) as a political commentary on present day English politics, why does Dickens chose to set the novel thirty years in the past? Why locate the novel’s beginning outside of England?

  3. Little Dorrit’s Chapter X is renowned for giving Victorians a heightened awareness of the role of the artist as social critic. Chapter X is the most obvious social critique in the novel. Are there other, more disseminated, social critiques throughout the text? How does Dickens continue his critique of government throughout the novel?

  4. Through the plots and subplots of the novel, Dickens draws us into the complex kinship ties of numerous families who often challenge conventional understandings of the Victorian nuclear family. How is kinship understood in the novel? In what ways is Dickens commenting on familial relations as socially constructed, as an organizing principle of society?

  5. How does Dickens’ characterization of characters in Little Dorrit reflect the novel’s interest in the social? How are characters seemingly shaped by the social and societal expectations in the novel? Might we read this in itself as social critique in the novel?
March 11 Book I:
Ch. 19-36
March discussion questions coming soon.
April 8 Book II:
Ch. 1-18
April discussion questions coming soon.
May 13 Book II:
Ch. 19-34
May discussion questions coming soon.