From Visual Tools to Body Parts: Functions of Eyeglasses in The Pickwick Papers


The Industrial Revolution and subsequent technological advancements enabled most members of the Victorian middle class to afford eyeglasses and facilitated the improvement and mass production of frames and lenses. This explains the popularity of eyeglasses among Dickens’s fictional characters such as Samuel Pickwick and Snubbin. Eyeglasses are associated with aging, social standing, power, and authority in his works; apparently, these help the characters see more clearly. Dickens’s first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1836–37), explores a time when the Victorian middle class began using eyeglasses cautiously. In The Pickwick Papers, only characters who were financially well-off or legal professionals wear eyeglasses. Additionally, there is an invariable association between a character’s temperament and the kind of eyeglasses they wear in his works. For instance, Pickwick’s round eyeglasses represent a mild temperament. Initially, references to Pickwick’s donning and removal of his eyeglasses are so frequent that his eyeglasses eventually appear to be a part of his body, forming his identity. Thus, this study discusses how Dickens’s use of eyeglasses to represent his characters reflected his contemporaries’ increasing affordability of eyeglasses.

Author Information
Akiko Takei, Chukyo University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2023
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

This paper is part of the ACAH2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Takei A. (2023) From Visual Tools to Body Parts: Functions of Eyeglasses in The Pickwick Papers ISSN: 2186-229X – The Asian Conference on Arts & Humanities 2023 Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon