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Little Dorrit, one of the three great novels of Charles Dickens’ last period, was produced in monthly installments from 1855 to 1857, and is considered one of his most profound. Dickens’ father spent three months in Marshalsea Prison for debt, which made a lasting impact on his life. This story centers around life in Marshalsea Prison and, as always, society in general.
Book One begins in the infamous Marseilles Prison in France, where two prisoners, Rigaud the French rogue and the ever cheerful Italian Cavaletto, share a cell. We meet them again later, but the scene shifts quickly to the English debtor’s prison, The Marshalsea, where Mr. Dorrit is confined. His daughter Amy is born there, the only baby ever born in that prison. Tiny as a baby, she grows into a sweet-natured tiny adult, better known as “Little Dorrit.” The other inmates love and respect the child and the caring woman she becomes. Mr. Dorrit is also revered by them, and as the inmate with the longest term of imprisonment, he becomes “Father of the Marshalsea.”
Enter Arthur Clennam, who meets Mr. Dorrit and Amy. He notes that she takes care of her father’s every need, and also cooks, cleans, and mends the clothes of her older siblings. Arthur suspects that Dorrit was wrongly imprisoned, and begins investigating the case, which may involve his own family as well.
In Book Two, Mr. Dorrit has been freed, and his family begins a new life. Arthur Clennam, now a dear friend of Little Dorrit, becomes partner with an engineer and inventor named Daniel Doyce, but a surprising event occurs which puts Arthur into prison. The twists and turns of fortune for himself, the Dorrit family and many others are changed forever. (Summary by Mil Nicholson)