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Volume 71, Issue 3, Summer 2019

Terry W. Thompson
Pages 173-185

The Writing on the Wall
Belshazzar in the Fiction of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, considered by many the poet laureate for the poor and downtrodden of his time, had a great fondness for "religious and moral themes." As a result, "one does not have to read very far in either the major or minor works of Dickens to learn lessons contained in both the New and Old Testaments." Among his favorite biblical allusions are examples of the many hard "lessons" visited upon the rich and the powerful by a just God. One of the author's most resonating Old Testament references is to the "great feast" of King Belshazzar, the sixth century B.C. ruler of Babylon who loved gold and silver more than people, more than life itself. Allusions, subtle and otherwise, to this self-destructive tyrant appear—with telling effect—in several of Dickens's best-known novels, from A Christmas Carol to A Tale of Two Cities.

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