Though only the third novel Dickens wrote, "Nicholas Nickleby" is a well-crafted and significant precursor to his other great works. The tale follows the fortunes of the young man Nicholas, the son of an imprudent gentleman who leaves his family without resources. Fiercely devoted to his mother and sisters, as well as his true friends, Nicholas is occasionally emotional and even violent, yet always idealistic. He seeks the aid of his villainous uncle, Ralph Nickleby, who comes to hate his nephew and wish him serious harm. Nicholas goes through more than one attempt at employment, being first disgusted by the abuse of the schoolmaster Squeers, later surprised by the acting and antics of Vincent Crummles, and finally assisted by the merchant Cheeryble brothers. Dickens employs a cast of characters, both good and unsavory, in this adventurous story of Nicholas Nickleby, who helps those in need, despises wickedness, grows in self-awareness, and even experiences falling in love in a plot that is by turns melodramatic and comedic. An uplifting tale full of poignant indictments on Victorian society, Dickens' work has all the best characteristics of his classics.
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Circumstances force Nicholas to enter the nightmarish world of Dotheboys Hall, a school run by the malevolent Wackford Squeers. When he leaves to seek his rightful inheritance, he travels southwards, encountering a troupe of theatrical artistes. The self-confidence he acquires is to stand him in good stead.
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