John Bowen

Professor of English and Related Literature, University of York


Chapters 1-5 Illustrations

The Maypole

The Maypole (frontispiece), illustration by Hablot Knight Browne

An Unsociable Stranger

An Unsociable Stranger, illustration by Hablot Knight Browne

A Rough Parting

A Rough Parting, Illustration by Hablot Knight Browne

Succouring the Wounded,

Succouring the Wounded, illustration by Hablot Knight Browne

It's a Poor Heart that Never Rejoices

It’s a Poor Heart that Never Rejoices, illustration by Hablot Knight Browne

Mr. Tappertit's Jealousy

Mr. Tappertit’s Jealousy, illustration by Hablot Knight Browne


  1. Hello Mr. Bowen. I enjoyed you short summary on the first five chapters of the book which helped to clarify what the chapters were about. Thank you very much. I liked the fact that you touched on how Dickens took the perspective individuals back in time to basically understand the social problems occurring in the 1780’s. I feel that this ties in with the phrase “history repeats itself” but in different ways. An example of that would be how you mentioned Dickens experience of his father going to jail and being sent to the Warren which now had a negative connotation in the book as being a very dark and mysterious location in which someone was murdered at. Furthermore, one character that I was very intrigued with was Barnaby Rudge. As a character that has such importance in the title but doesn’t appear in the book as often was pretty strange to me. Just from reading the title I had expected Barnaby to be the main character that was to be constantly mentioned. Additionally, seeing how Barnaby was being mentioned as an “idiot” really made me question why Dickens would choose this specific character to be the main character of the book and also be the character mentioned in the title? Do you believe that Dickens made Barnaby the main character on purpose?

  2. HI Natasha,

    I think it was a brave and original idea by Dickens to make Barnaby the main character and it gives him all sorts of possibilities in the story. Barnaby has much more freedom than many characters in the book, for example, and is able to ramble freely with Grip, for example. No-one is telling him what to do. But that can be a danger as well as freedom. Later for example he gets involved in the riots in a way that someone more controlled by a father or society would not, and he gets into serious trouble. And then we are asked to think if he is responsible for his actions or does his mental state mean that he isn’t? He also has insight and kinds of imagination that other characters don’t seem to have, and a close relation to nature. But at least once he is also described as frightening and dangerous. So he brings out all sorts of important themes in the book as well as being interesting in his own right.


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