"Reality proposes, but Dickens metamorphoses...to create not so much a veritable picture of life as a living alternative to it", Stephen Wall writes in the Introduction to this brand-new edition of Little Dorrit. The novel is set in Marshalsea, the debtors' prison where Amy Dorrit, the title character, has spent her entire life caring for her imprisoned father (and where Dickens's own father had been imprisoned). Amy's devotion to her father and her love for Arthur Clennam, a young man who eventually helps secure her father's release from prison, form a small center of light in an otherwise dark portrayal of both the physical and psychological horrors of imprisonment and the hypocrisy of a society that allows them to continue. Although Dickens railed against society's inequities in earlier books, his social criticism here is more radical and his comedy, harsher and more pointed.
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