This chapter introduces the book's purpose and scope to the reader. The author aims to illuminate the crucial symbiosis that exists between the ‘deviant’ and the ‘theatrical’ aspects of Dickens's writing and, in so doing, to pinpoint some of the contradictions that are endemic in the current state of understanding of his art. This book locates the rationale for Dickens's ‘ostension’ in his populism and his belief that ‘dramatic’ forms of entertainment best serve the purposes of cultural inclusivity. It is structured around melodramatic models of villainy that are passionally defined. This typology is a heuristic device rather than a rigid system of categorisation. Much Dickens criticism still seems to belong to either the post-structuralist or the mimetic school — one tending to stress the self-reflexive fictionality of Dickens's texts, and the other tending to treat the novels as representations of social and/or psychological realities.
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