Little Dorrit Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Little Dorrit Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

A small world

In the fictional universe created by Charles Dickens, it seems that everyone knows everyone and that a series of strange coincidences take place one after another. Through this, it is created the illusion that the world is a small place where you can meet at any moment someone you once knew. This motif appears from the beginning of the book and it is maintained until the end. One strange coincidence involves the two characters that appear in the first chapter of the book. Monsieur Rigaud and Cavalleto are two inmates held in a prison in France who meet again after Monsieur Rigaud is released. The strange coincidence is that Rigaud is forced to share a room at an inn with another person and that person is Cavalletto himself. Arthur is another character who experiences a series of strange coincidences. For example, he meets a man while he tries to help Little Dorrit with her debts and it is revealed that Little Dorrri’s friend. Plornish lives on the land owned by that man. Another strange coincidence that strengthens the idea that the world is small is when Arthur goes home to Mr. Corby and then finds that Mr. Corby is actually the father of his ex-fiancé.


At one point, Arthur tells Maggie a fairytale which can be considered as being symbolic. The fairytale Arthur told was about a rich king who lived in a big castle and had a very beautiful daughter. Near the castle lived in a small poor house, a young and tiny woman who kept hidden a shadow in her hut. The story can be interpreted and the characters in the fairytale can be considered as being correspondent to various characters in the novel. The king for example can be Casby and the beautiful daughter Pet while the tiny woman is Little Dorrit. Regarding the shadow hidden by the tiny woman, the shadow can be interpreted as the feelings Little Dorrit hides from the others in her soul.


One of the motifs in the novel is the idea that a character is superior to another character. Almost all characters feel at one point that they are better that the others and because of this, they behave in an arrogant way. One of such character is Fanny who receives an offer of marriage from a wealthy man who even gives her expensive gifts without really knowing if Fanny will return his feelings. Despite her social and financial situation, Fanny rejects him, claiming that she comes from a noble family and that she is too good to marry that man. Her delusional way of thinking pushes her to reject the possibility of having a comfortable life with a man who loves her.

Noble family

From the first chapters of the novel, it becomes clear that the Dorrit family thinks that they are a noble family, too good for those around them. Despite being in prison, Mr. Dorrit expects those who come and see him to bring him various gifts and show respect towards him. This way of thinking that Little Dorrit has is taken by those around him as well. Other prisoners from the debtors’ prison start believing that Mr. Dorrit is indeed an aristocrat and show respect towards him, Fanny thinks that she is too good to marry a man with a high social status and even Little Dorrit starts to think that her family is better than the other. This motif remains present in the novel until the end and it is the reason behind some conflicts that appears between characters.

Fake gentleman

After Mr. Dorrit finds about his fortune, he and his family go to the Alps with the Gowan family. Once they arrive there, a ‘’battle’’ between Mr. Gowan and Mr. Dorrit appears and both men tried to show who is the most aristocrat and gentleman like in behavior. This battle between the two man becomes a motif in the second part of the novel, both Dorrit and Gowan trying to prove that despite not being born in an aristocrat family, they can still behave like real gentlemen.

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