Charles Dickens wrote many novels, many of which contained serious moral messages about life at the time.
He particularly liked to focus on the treatment of children, and Nicolas Nickleby is no exception. It seems likely that the reason so many of his books were focused on the treatment of children is because of his experiences as a child. His father was put in prison when Dickens was twelve and he then had to spend a few years working in a blacking warehouse on a salary of only six shillings a week.
His mother had taught him to read at a young age and his father owned many books, with these three things combined, it seems unsurprising that Dickens wrote many books and of this genre. With Nicolas Nickleby, written at a time when there were no laws protecting children and they were all but slaves to their parents or guardians, it was a moral message to the people about the poor treatment of children at the time. Dickens uses many techniques to have us feeling the same way as he had about the welfare and treatment of children.
One of the key characters used in Dickens mission to pluck at the heartstrings of the reader is Mr Squeers. When we are first introduced to this character we are given strong first impressions about his personality. He seems to care little if at all for anyone else, particularly not about children. A good example of this is when ‘Squeers knocked him (the boy) off the trunk with a blow to one side of the face, and knocked him on again with a blow on the other.
‘ This shows him as a man who not only doesn’t care about others, but also enjoys causing their discomfort. By having a character like this behaving in such ways to the hapless children throughout the story, certainly makes the reader feel more sympathy towards the children. Dickens also presents Squeers as a parsimonious and tight-fisted character. An example of this is when Squeers is giving five of his boys their breakfast.
He buys only half a jug puff milk and tells the waiter just fill the rest of the jug ‘…with lukewarm water… ‘ This demonstrates that Squeers is all too happy to be overly efficient when it comes to other people’s welfare. Mr Squeers’ behaviour towards the children is also very brutal, far beyond what would be considered reasonable even by those in favour of corporal punishment. A good illustration of this is when Squeers sees the warts on Bolder’s, (one of the students) hands he canes the boy, and without stopping ‘… until his arm was tired out. ‘
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