Little Dorrit is a novel by Charles Dickens, that was originally published as a serial between 1855 and 1857. It satirizes the shortcomings of both government and society, including the institution of debtors' prisons, where debtors were imprisoned, unable to work, until they repaid their debts. The prison in this case is the Marshalsea, where Dickens's own father had been imprisoned. Dickens is also critical of the lack of a social safety net, the treatment and safety of industrial workers, as well the bureaucracy of the British Treasury, in the form of his fictional "Circumlocution Office". In addition he satirises the stratification of society that results from the British class system. Like much of Dickens' later fiction, this novel has seen many reversals of critical fortune. It has been shown to be a critique of HM Treasury and the blunders that led to the loss of life of 360 British soldiers at the Battle of Balaclava. Imprisonment – both literal and figurative – is a major theme of the novel, with Clennam and the Meagles quarantined in Marseilles, Rigaud jailed for murder, Mrs. Clennam confined to her house, the Dorrits imprisoned in the Marshalsea, and most of the characters trapped within the rigidly defined English social class structure of the time. Tchaikovsky, a voracious reader and theatre-goer when he was not composing, was entranced by the book. Little Dorrit has been adapted for the screen five times, latest as a much-acclaimed star-packed TV-series, which aired on the BBC in 2008.
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