Little Dorrit Literary Elements

Little Dorrit Literary Elements


Social novel.

Setting and Context

The action of the novel starts in 1820 and the action takes place in England, France and Italy.

Narrator and Point of View

The story is told from a third person point of view and the narrator is an omniscient one who recalls the events subjectively.

Tone and Mood

Tragic, playful, sarcastic, violent

Protagonist and Antagonist

It can be considered that the protagonist in this novel is the simple, honest man who fights against an unjust society.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between Arthur and Mrs. Clennam


The story reaches its climax when Arthur is locked away because of his debts.


The night Arthur spends in the debtors’ prison when he gets accidentally locked inside foreshadows the time he will spend inside the same prison.


When Amy tells Arthur at the end of the novel that she has no money, that proves to be an understatement as the reader is aware of the money Amy will receive regularly as a result of a clause in a will.


The writer included some autobiographical elements into the novel so Little Dorrit, can be considered as being an allusion to the writer’s life and childhood. Just like Amy, Charles Dickens was born in a family where the father was imprisoned because of his debt. His father’s situation changed the way Dickens saw the world in general and the way he considered the government.


The most predominate image is that of Amy, presented as a child, not as a woman. As the novel progresses, Amy seems to shrink and become less and less present and independent.


Dorrit is presented from the start as a proud man who likes to think of himself as being an aristocrat. During those times, the children coming from aristocrat families weren’t expected to work and Dorrit took this idea as well. In order to avoid troubles with Mr. Dorrit, Fanny and Amy would often lie about what they are doing during the day as to protect their father from the shame of knowing that his children are forced to work. However, it is hinted that Mr. Dorrit did knew about his daughters working but even so, paradoxically, he continued to ignore his children’s effort of offering him a comfortable life and chose instead to blame them for being reckless and unwise.


A parallel is drawn between Dorrit and Arthur to show that everyone, no matter their initial financial situation can end up in prison. Arthur has the same fate as Dorrit had, ending up being locked down in the same prison, even staying in the same room and both being locked away even though they were innocent. What is more, they both get out of prison after they are helped by a benevolent person.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The narrator uses metonymy with the purpose of characterizing a whole class through only one character. Even though the narrator points out that Little Dorrit’s name is Amy, her proper name is rarely used. Instead, everyone knows Amy as Little Dorrit, the poor oppressed girl who tries to survive in a society which doesn’t care about the poor people. Through Little Dorrit, the narrator criticizes a whole country that chooses to ignore the problems it has and pretend that everything is fine. Meanwhile, those people who are Little Dorrits are forced to do everything they can just to survive while being ignored by the rich.


Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses, staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. The only things to be seen not fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of grapes. These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.

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