I don't understand this Panglossianism from Dickens. The quotations below would suggest a pessimistic conclusion?
Reflect upon your
present blessingspast misfortunes of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunespresent blessings, of which all men have some.
In this respect Dickens concentrates on the appalling conditions of institutions such as workhouses and poorhouses in Victorian society and on resultant criminal activity and prostitution in the community as the disinherited struggle to survive.
A very important characteristic of a Dickensian novel is his tendency to obsessively include orphaned children throughout. Again, these children help to showcase a dark and seedy land where children run amuck without a parental figure to help guide them along. These children grow up fast, but they learn invaluable lessons along their path to early adulthood. Here’s seven of the most invaluable Dickensian waifs.
Dickens was a lifelong critic of the iniquities of a social system that produced criminals and then punished them - his contempt being most succinctly summed up in Mr Bumble’s pronouncement in Oliver Twist that ‘The law is a ass’ and expressed at length in Bleak House, his great satire of the courts of chancery and their self-perpetuating property disputes. Elsewhere his fiction is full of prisons, judges, trials, lawyers, wills and lawsuits, focused on the City of London, where the system had its fulcrum: when he was a teenager, Dickens spent time working there as a solicitor’s clerk and considered a legal career.
Dickens was a vigorous critic of the New Poor Law and he relentlessly lampooned the harsh utilitarian ethics behind it – the belief that the workhouse would act as a deterrent so fewer people would claim poor relief and thereby the poor rate would reach its ‘correct’ level.