chapter  3
DICKENS AND ADAPTATION Imagery in words and pictures
Pages 15

All views of the past are partial and limited, distorted by ideology, myth and misconception, and our late-twentieth-century responses to the Victorian era are no exception. Two of the most obvious, and related, examples are found in our confident assessment that the Victorians were hopelessly enmeshed in, first, sexual repression and, second, a generalized hypocrisy that masked the realities of nineteenth-century life in a variety of evasions. I am not concerned to unravel the truth, or otherwise, of these particular views, although it might be worth noting, in passing, that sexual repression was evidently quite compatible with the production of large families. What I am concerned to combat is a different, and perhaps more subtle, set of responses to this period, an almost unformulated sense of the visual impoverishment of the Victorian world. Of course, it is possible - inevitable, in fact - that society and individuals should have a whole series of notions of any historical period. some of which are incompatible. Saturation in the Victorian novel, especially Dickens, communicates a sensuously vibrant fictional world pulsating with the sights, sounds and smells of a novelistic image of reality. However, when we turn from fiction to 'reality' itself I believe that our responses may be somewhat different, for reasons rooted in technology.