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The Doppelganger Effect: Dickens, Heredity, and the Double in The Battle of Life

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Most critical accounts of the double in literature emphasize the psychological dimensions of the concept—that the double sets up a relationship between the self and its projected image, or between the self and the other, that it addresses the inherent duality of human nature. This essay suggests that there is another way to account for Dickens's obsessive depiction of the double in his fiction. Using the 1847 Christmas book, The Battle of Life as prooftext, I argue that Dickens's use of the double is analogous to his fictional use of heredity, which he understood as a process of circularity and unending duplication from one generation to the next. For Dickens, doubling erases death in much the same way as the repetitions of biological heredity nullify the irreversible impact of extinction.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • Founded in 1970, the centennial anniversary of Dickens's death, DSA has been published since 1980 by AMS Press in cooperation with the Ph.D. program in English of the City University of New York and in association with the Graduate Center, CUNY and Queens College, CUNY. Besides presenting articles exploring the wide range of Dickens''s interests and talents, DSA also includes essays on other mid- and late- nineteenth-century authors and on the history and aesthetics of the period's fiction. In addition, each volume contains a substantial review article examining a prior year's scholarship on Dickens, and DSA occasionally publishes surveys of work on other Victorian writers, as well as review essays considering specialized studies of subjects in Victorian fiction. The editors seek to offer essays of "the most diverse kinds," those employing innovative as well as traditional approaches.
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