In his works, from "Oliver Twist" to "Our Mutual Friend," Charles Dickens reveals a continuum of artistic as well as social development over a period of four decades. In this highly original study, Badri Raina relates Dickens novels thoroughly to one another, illuminating the works by seeing them in terms of the author s changing social outlook, personal attitudes, and aesthetic practice. Raina s book will fascinate readers of Dickens, and will serve social historians as well. The unifying point of Raina s study is Dickens ambivalence toward respectable Victorian bourgeois society; he criticized the bourgeois myths of unbridled success and achievement through aggressive individualism, yet wished to be a great success himself. Raina argues that Dickens projected this personal ambivalence through the creation of key characters and combinations of characters in his novels, creating also a continual movement toward self-awareness and self-criticism. This personal movement, argues Raina, found expression in a steady improvement in the quality of Dickens art. Two of the most interesting issues in Dickens studies that of his development as a novelist and that of his mass appeal in combination with towering aesthetic achievement are both addressed thoroughly in this lucid and highly readable book. By following common threads of plot and character through the novels, Raina demonstrates how Dickens matured both socially and artistically, until in his last finished novel, "Our Mutual Friend," social values that were earlier espoused (for instance, in "Oliver Twist") were wholly and willingly rejected. Raina s critical procedure illuminates not just the career of a Victorian novelist, but one who embraces, traverses, and evaluates the social climate of a critical period of the nineteenth century."