Today is Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. Or it would be, if he had lived long enough. Anyway, Google is celebrating with another doodle, this time featuring a variety of his most famous characters. As one of the English language’s most popular and most enduring authors, it’s perhaps no surprise that Dickens has been honoured in this way.
The past few days have seen plenty of online discussion about Dickens. Most of us (in the UK, at least) have had Dickens shoved down out throats at school, and this doesn’t always leave the best after-taste. I remember being forced to read Nicholas Nickleby and Great Expectations in my mid-teens, and they were far from my favourite Engilsh GCSE texts.
Efforts are underway to turn 2012 into a real celebration of Dickens’ life and work, although there is also a predictable backlash. And it’s certainly true that there are many people who think they ‘should’ like Dickens and plough through his books, wondering why they’re not really enjoying them. Many people find that Dickens is worth revisiting when they’re older. Away from the pressure of GCSEs and A-Levels, books such as Great Expectations can be a revelation.