Charles John Huffam Dickens: Racism As A Cultural Chauvinist

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As a prolific Victorian writer of novels, plays, novellas, and non-fictional prose including letters, Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) became known all over the world for his remarkable characters, his mastery of prose, and his depictions of the social classes, customs and values of his times. Some believed that he was a staunch defender of the working classes and has often been celebrated as a champion of the oppressed and the downtrodden. But it has sometimes been noted that both in his journalism and fiction he expresses attitudes that can be interpreted as racist and xenophobic. He opposed slavery but defended colonialists against their native attackers and opposed suffrage for blacks on grounds of cultural superiority.…show more content…
Ledger and Ferneaux do not believe he advocated any form of “scientific racism” regarding heredity - he had no concept at all of a superior “master race” and could not be described as either a white supremacist or segregationist – but still had the highest possible antipathy for the lifestyles of native peoples in British colonies, and believed that the sooner they were civilised, the better. (Ledger 297–299) The Oxford Dictionary of English Literature describes Dickens as nationalistic often both stigmatising foreign European cultures and taking his attitude to “colonized people” to “genocidal extremes” (Kastan 157), albeit based mainly on a vision of British virtue, but not on any concept of heredity. The Historical Encyclopedia of anti-semitism notes the paradox of Dickens both being a “champion of causes of the oppressed” who abhorred slavery and supported the European liberal revolutions of the 1840s. (Levy
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