- Information in the Novel and the Novel as Information System: Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit and Margaret Drabble’s Radiant Way Trilogy
- Information & Culture: A Journal of History
- University of Texas Press
- Volume 50, Number 3, 2015
- pp. 339-371
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Each realist novel collects, interprets, and transmits information about what it means to be human in a certain time and place. Part of information history, realist novels help us understand the psychology of human beings and the dynamics of their political and social interactions. Although fictional, novels contain information about material conditions, social customs and values, the organization of institutions, and individual perceptions and identities. Readers understand that each novel includes, constitutes, and transmits information. Novels are not reference books; rather, they are “information systems” that describe fictional worlds with critical relevance to our understanding of history, politics, social organization, and individual development. Describing material conditions, information in the realist novel outlines socioeconomic and political conditions and problems. This essay looks at two cases: Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit (1855–57) and Margaret Drabble’s Radiant Way trilogy of novels—The Radiant Way (1987), A Natural Curiosity (1989), and The Gates of Ivory (1991). These works offer accounts and critiques of social hierarchies and inequities by incorporating historical and social information into their overall thematics of plot, character, and setting.