Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Claire Bracken

Second Advisor

Harry Marten




grotesque, dickens, society, apparent, curriosity


My thesis explores the maturation of the grotesque throughout Charles Dickens’s career. The main focus is on Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop, and Great Expectations. These texts were chosen because they represented several eras of Dickens’s works. Through these texts, the evolution of the grotesque and Dickens’s view of society is apparent. These two things are greatly explored and their interconnectivity is examined. In Oliver Twist it is apparent that Dickens is making a comment on the state of the poor in Victorian England. The novel was published shortly after many new poverty laws were put in place, causing mass suffering among the poverty stricken. Dickens creates a portrayal of society that relies heavily on the grotesque. In The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens utilizes the grotesque once again; however, Dickens embodies the idea of the grotesque and the innocence in his characters. This is interesting because it shows how he went from portraying society itself as the grotesque, to embodying it and making a statement that way. Great Expectations explores the grotesqueries of wealth and the desire for upward social mobility. In the final chapter, the impact of grotesque societal values in combination with their effect on men combines to encourage an enlightened life. Wealth should not be pursued unless all of its evils are taken into account and feared. Prosperity is a dangerous and unfaithful mistress; however, if one sees the danger, perhaps it may be avoided.