Department or Program
The year 1824 marked a turning point in the life of young Charles Dickens. During this year, Dickens’s father was sent to the Marshalsea prison for debt. Hence, at the age of twelve, Dickens worked at Warren’s blacking warehouse to contribute to his own support during his family’s financial struggles. As a child who remembered happier times in Chatham only a few years earlier, Dickens felt traumatized by what he perceived to be his fall into the working-class. This trauma remained with Dickens for the rest of his life. After his conversation with his friend John Forster in 1847, more than twenty years after being sent to the blacking warehouse, Dickens was finally able to talk about his experience. However, he was unable to suppress the constellation of his bad feelings, which dominate what has become known as his Autobiographical Fragment. This thesis approaches Dickens’s experience at the blacking warehouse and his writings about and around it in relation to trauma theory. For Dickens, the art of autobiographical storytelling involves acknowledging repressed childhood memories and distancing himself from them imaginatively by means of the first-person perspective integrated into his fiction. By processing his trauma via his fiction, Dickens is able to reimagine his own point of view and reflect upon how his childhood memories have shaped his career. This thesis concludes by examining the ways his works have been criticized and effectively rewritten by contemporary novelists who interpret the racial and sexual traumas masked by the first-person narrators in Dickens’s fiction.
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Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access
Date of Graduation
Bachelor of Arts
Rothmann, Sarah M., "Dickens and Trauma: The Art of Autobiographical Fiction" (2019). Honors Theses. 289.
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Components of Thesis
1 pdf file
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