The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works

The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works


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Wish you had time to re-read and enjoy that daunting stack of Charles Dickens novels?

Take heart: Dickens enthusiast Gina Dalfonzo
has done the heavy lifting for you. In short, readable excerpts she presents the essence of the great novelist’s prodigious output, teasing out dozens of the most memorable scenes to reveal the Christian vision and values that suffuse all his work.

Dickens can certainly entertain, but his legacy endures because of his power to stir consciences with the humanity of his characters and their predicaments. While he could be ruthless in his characterization of greed, injustice, and religious hypocrisy, again and again the hope of redemption shines through.

In spite of – or perhaps because of – his own failings, Dickens never stopped exploring the themes of sin, guilt, repentance, redemption, and restoration found in the gospel. In some passages the Christian elements are explicit, in others implicit, but, as Dickens himself said, they all reflect his understanding of and reverence for the gospel.

The Gospel in Dickens includes selections from Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Sketches by Boz – with a cast of unforgettable characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Sydney Carton, Jenny Wren, Fagin, Pip, Joe Gargery, Mr. Bumble, Miss Havisham, Betsey Trotwood, and Madame Defarge.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780874868418
Publisher: The Plough Publishing House
Publication date: 09/22/2020
Series: Gospel in Great Writers Series
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 505,111
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was the most popular author of his day and is still widely considered the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His books include Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol.

Gina Dalfonzo is editor of the popular Dickensblog, a blog about all things Charles Dickens. The author of Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C. S. Lewis and One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church, she has been an editor at BreakPoint and Christianity Today and a columnist at Christ and Pop Culture. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, National Review, The Gospel Coalition, First Things, and Guideposts.

Date of Birth:

February 7, 1812

Date of Death:

June 18, 1870

Place of Birth:

Portsmouth, England

Place of Death:

Gad's Hill, Kent, England


Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington

Table of Contents

Section 1: Sin and Its Victims

  1. A Tight-Fisted Hand at the Grindstone (A Christmas Carol)
  2. Cold, Cold Heart (Great Expectations)
  3. Turtle Soup and Venison (Hard Times)
  4. Around Us Every Day (Bleak House)
  5. I Want Some More (Oliver Twist)
  6. The Parish Beadle (Sketches by Boz)
  7. A Moral Man (Martin Chuzzlewit)
  8. He That Is without Sin (Bleak House)
  9. A Troublesome Bad Child (Our Mutual Friend)
  10. The Father of the Marshalsea (Little Dorrit)
  11. Safe with the Parish (Our Mutual Friend)
  12. These Epidemics (Little Dorrit)
  13. That Rotten Reed (Bleak House)
  14. Absolutely without Pity (A Tale of Two Cities)
  15. Destroying Angels (David Copperfield)
  16. A Matter of Business (Nicholas Nickleby)

Section 2: Repentance and Grace

  1. One Prayer for Mercy (Oliver Twist)
  2. The Resurrection and the Life (A Tale of Two Cities)
  3. What Have I Done (Great Expectations)
  4. To Take You Home (David Copperfield)
  5. In Remembrance of Him (Little Dorrit)
  6. I Revoke No Disposition (Bleak House)
  7. God Forgive Us All (David Copperfield)
  8. Ever the Best of Friends (Great Expectations)
  9. That We May Forgive (The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain)

Section 3: The Righteous Life

  1. Merciful and Tender (The Life of Our Lord)
  2. I Will Not Stand By (Nicholas Nickleby)
  3. Little Mother (Little Dorrit)
  4. A Good Pair (The Mystery of Edwin Drood)
  5. Contented with the Time (A Christmas Carol)
  6. What Sunday Might Be Made (Sunday under Three Heads)
  7. Peace and Perfect Happiness (The Old Curiosity Shop)
  8. A Modest Life (Little Dorrit)
  9. The Object of His Life (Dombey and Son)
  10. A Far, Far Better Thing (A Tale of Two Cities)
  11. God Bless Us, Every One (A Christmas Carol)

Appendix: Two Letters

  1. Letter to Edward “Plorn” Dickens, 26 September 1868
  2. Letter to John Makeham, 8 June 1870


Good literature is fresh water for the soul. While some writers offer a sip ladled from the well, Dickens takes us to a mountain waterfall where rushing waters saturate, overwhelm, and put us at risk of drowning as we drink. But fear not. This book of selected readings is more like a gentle brook whose waters will quench the thirst of Dickens’ aficionados and neophytes alike. I know this volume will attract those who know and love Dickens already. But I hope it woos those who have yet to drink from his depths.

Dickens was, perhaps, the first real, grown up, literary author I fell in love with. I think that happened because I was allowed to wade into the stream gradually when I was first assigned Great Expectations by my Junior High English teacher. By using an abridged, illustrated version for young readers, my teacher introduced us to the storytelling powers of Dickens without letting us get lost in the baroque style that is beyond the tastes and abilities of inexperienced readers. The images from that early immersion in an age-appropriate version have remained with me my whole life, deepened and enriched with each re-reading. The memoires of the eccentric Miss Havisham, her decaying cake crawling with spiders, the sparring of the mysterious Pale Young Gentleman, and of course, the alternatingly endearing and annoying Pip are as vivid in my mind as memories of real-life people and events.

I was lucky enough to have a teacher who helped me develop that taste, not only for Dickens but for all of the demands that good literature makes upon readers. The difference between a great book and one written (and read) merely to entertain or pass the time is that good literature demands an investment from the reader in order to reap its rewards. Reading good literature well doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes the challenge of literary art presents itself in its otherness (being by or about people from times and places vastly different from ours). Almost always the challenge comes from the artful use of language—words sparer, richer, less direct, or more resonant than those we use in everyday speech. Both of these challenges—otherness and artfulness—are present in Dickens for today’s readers. Dickens’ style is difficult for those of us habituated to the plain, flat prose of cable news, blog posts, Twitter feeds, or Ernest Hemingway. To read Dickens well, not only for newcomers but even me, a seasoned reader, requires deliberately arming ourselves against our usual hurry and our shortening attention spans. A reader of Dickens needs to be willing to slow her reading pace, luxuriate in the circumlocutory sentences, re-read passages that takes unexpected turns, and tune her ear to the cadence of the multiple voices that inhabit Dickens’ busy, busy world. Whether the massive Bleak House or the short-but-still demanding A Christmas Carol, Dickens requires a commitment of time, attention, effort, and patience. But that commitment is well worth it.

For even beyond the literary merits of his works, Dickens puts forth, as Gina explains in the introduction, a profoundly Christian view of the world. And while the redemptive elements of Dickens’ works are some of the strongest within the body of his work, perhaps what can speak most powerfully to our world today is the theme of guilt. Dickens is prophetic in the way he illuminates the distinctions we—of a modern, increasingly secular world—often fail to make between real guilt and false shame, between true repentance and cheap substitutions. More and more today—as in the world of these novels—the truly guilty feel no shame, and those who feel greatly ashamed are the most innocent ones. And those who saying they’re sorry don’t have the godly sorrow that brings repentance.

Thus, the division of the excerpts from Dickens’ work into sections on sin, repentance, and righteousness is true not only to Dickens’ major concerns but to ours today, too (or the ones we ought to have). While this volume is a curated selection, this arrangement and the introduction offer a picture of Dickens’ entire corpus. To return to my opening metaphor, the wide-ranging, insightfully-arranged selections here encourage those whose souls thirst for more to follow the exhortation of Alexander Pope, a poet who lived a century before Dickens:

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

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