Monday, April 9, 2012

A Great Storyteller

Charles Dickens

I'm a big fan of Masterpiece Theater on public television. They give us a variety of excellent presentations ranging from mysteries to romance to adventure. The past two Sunday evenings, Ken and I watched Great Expectations, which was adapted from the classic Charles Dickens novel. 

I had a vague recollection of the story but could not remember many of the details. The story involves a young boy named Pip who is an orphan living with an older sister. Pip happens upon an escaped convict out in the marshes. He brings the man a file to open his shackles when the convict threatens him. Later, Pip brings the man food. The convict is recaptured and Pip moves on with his life. It's a life which is filled with twists and turns of strange people, apprenticeship, learning to live as a gentleman, a love that is lost and found, the return of the convict who suddenly becomes an important part of Pip;s life. The two-part movie was well done with an English cast and filmed there, as most of the Masterpiece Theater presentations are. 

As I watched the story unfold, I kept thinking about what a superb storyteller the author was. His 200th birthday was celebrated only a couple of months ago. His storytelling would have to be superb for him to be recognized around the world two centuries after his birth. He left the world with not one, two or three novels but a host of them. Many of us were required to read them in high school. I remember my son reading Great Expectations during his high school years. Kirk was not a reader so  he never looked forward to an assignment involving reading a full book. But how he loved that story, Even though it took place in a time and place far removed from what my son knew, I think he was able to relate to Pip as a boy his own age. And besides that, it's a good story that kept his attention.

Who can forget other Dickens' tales like A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and so many more? He based many of his characters on people he actually knew. He had an uncanny ability to weave a tale with many threads, all of which made perfect sense in the end. You might say he was a master plotter. His books are filled with description, almost to the point that the reader sometimes becomes impatient, wanting to get on with the story. But it's those details that paint a vivid picture of the characters, the place, and the times. I think we'd  all like to be wearing the same label he has, that of being A Great Storyteller.

If you google Charles Dickens, you'll find links to a great many sites about him and his novels. One I found of interest lists ten things you might not know about him. Read it here.

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