Conceiving a “Veneration for Clowns”: Popular Amusement and Social Subversion in the novels of Charles Dickens
Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of English
Despite the immense popularity of common street amusements in the Victorian era, the allocation of leisure time to the venue of ribald diversions was often deprecated by moralists. In argument that theatrics depicting bawdy and often violent scenes would invite undesirable
behavior into the habits of their audience, moralists decried the participation of such amusements amongst the common people. In the Oxford Reader’s Companion to Dickens, Peter Schlicke states that “in the anxious debates in much of Victorian middle-class and religious world about the moral legitimacy of this or that form of leisure the underlying assumption was that leisure should invigorate you for work and be morally uplifting” (20). It was an assumed that those who frequented popular amusements were permissive of the licentious; to be an actor or creator of such theatrics was to be licentious in character. Curiously, this sentiment was not shared by well-known novelist and moralist, Charles Dickens, who believed characters met in amusement could be found in common life. In utilizing the structural frame of popular entertainment in his characters and plotlines, Dickens’s novels offer a variant perception of the world to his reader, a perception that acknowledges the exaggerated and chaotic nature of social circumstances of Victorian society. This new perception, gained by Nicholas through his interaction with Crummles’s troupe of thespians, allows him to function subversively within Victorian society, thus rectifying the wrongs done to his loved ones and himself.
Palmisano, Abigail, "Conceiving a “Veneration for Clowns”: Popular Amusement and Social Subversion in the novels of Charles Dickens" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 1133.
Imported from ProQuest Palmisano_ilstu_0092N_11504.pdf