1855 Charles Dickens novel about wealth, status, political and economic corruption, and The Power of Love.The central figure is Amy aka Little Dorrit, the 'Child of the Marshalsea'. Which is to say, she was born in this debtor's prison — a nineteenth-century English institution in which defaulters were incarcerated, along with their families as necessary, until such time as they were able to pay what they owed.As the story opens, Amy's father William Dorrit has likewise earned the title of 'Father of the Marshalsea' as the longest-serving inmate; his particular debts are so involved — and he himself so helpless in the face of them — that he's been locked up for twenty-five years now with no hope of release anytime soon. With little to work with save her own innate goodness, young Amy determinedly takes charge of the family after her mother dies, fiercely guarding her father's pretences to being merely a gentleman temporarily down on his luck to the extent of not telling him that she's also arranged for her older siblings and herself to work outside the prison.At the same time, in a more upscale part of London, Arthur Clennam has returned to his gloomy, forbidding childhood home after years abroad in the family firm. Fortysomething and vaguely depressed over what he considers a wasted life, Clennam is nevertheless still a gentle and idealistic man. His father's last words have given Arthur reason to believe that his stern, fanatically religious mother may be hiding knowledge of a serious injury the firm may have done to parties unknown. Arthur is determined to find and right this wrong as far as in him lies, even after his mother angrily rejects the idea out of hand... especially after he discovers that nevertheless, in a burst of completely uncharacteristic altruism, she has hired Little Dorrit to work in her house.As per usual in Dickens, their stories intersect not only with each other's, but with those of Loads and Loads of Characters. Clennam's interest in the Dorrits' case soon leads to a stunning reversal of fortune: as it turns out William Dorrit is the long-lost heir to a great estate. To Amy's frank bewilderment, her family's unswerving goal thereafter becomes acceptance in the highest circles of Society, as led by the great financier Merdle — or, more accurately, by his wife and her 'fine bosom'. As a corollary, of course, the Dorrits' efforts require blotting out all memory of their past... up to and definitely including Little Dorrit's years of patient care and loyalty. To better make this clean break, they embark on a grand tour of Europe.Meanwhile back in London, Clennam, having resigned from the family firm, is slowly-but-surely beginning to find real purpose in life with the help of his steadfast friends, eccentric genius inventor Daniel Doyce and retired banker Mr. Meagles — and despite the hindrance of the Barnacles who staff the infamous Circumlocution Office, the official bastion of How Not to Do It. Also prominent in the mix is Meagles' daughter, pretty, spoilt Pet, whose eventual marriage to a rogue convinces Arthur he's now far too old for romance. Instead — between intervals of wondering just why a certain sinister foreigner is suddenly being welcomed into his mother's house — Clennam throws himself into helping make Doyce's manufacturing works a success......until the looming shadow of money, secrets and pretense that has hovered over the entire cast lowers once more.There are two noteworthy adaptations of the novel: the Oscar-nominated 1988 film duology with Derek Jacobi as Arthur Clennam and Alec Guinness as William Dorrit, and the Emmy-winning 2008 BBC miniseries with Claire Foy as Amy Dorrit, Matthew MacFadyen as Arthur, and Andy Serkis as the villain Rigaud.
Little Dorrit contains examples of:
Abusive Parents: Mrs. Clennam and Mr. Dorrit are both emotionally, if not physically, abusive.
Accidental Misnaming: Tattycoram's name is actually Harriet, but no one calls her that except Miss Wade.
Blackmail: Rigaud discovers that Arthur is not Mrs. Clennam's child, resulting in this trope.
Disabled Means Helpless: Subverted with Maggy, who, despite being severely affected by Brain Fever, can still take care of herself. Played straight with Mrs. Clennam, who in spite of her forceful character is paralyzed in a wheelchair and unable to leave the upper floor of her house.
Domestic Abuse: Jeremiah enjoys scaring the daylights out of his wife Affery, in addition to choking and seizing her, leaving her a shell of herself that doesn't even dare look straight down the hallway.
Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Miss Wade's entire guiding philosophy. She was an orphan and a charity case and from her earliest childhood has interpreted even the most basic acts of kindness and consideration to be acts of condescension and pity. And she hates this.
The Dragon: Pancks is this to Casby, albeit reluctantly.
No Sympathy: Mr. Merdle. He may be a fraud who kills himself to escape the consequences, but he's also ill, overworked, obviously guilty (the handcuffing gesture) and unbelievably lonely. His wife nags him for not being sociable enough, his stepson is too stupid to talk to, his own butler looks down on him, and everyone else worships his money without really knowing him. Even the author seems to have no sympathy for him.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Egad, the Barnacles. There's a reason — and not at all a subtle one — that it's called the Circumlocution Office.
Proper Lady: Despite having been born in debtor's prison, Amy Dorrit embodies this trope. Furthermore, she does so in spite of her father's small-minded attempts to hold on to gentility, shining as an example of true nobility of soul, rather than class or wealth.
The Dog Bites Back: Pancks bites back at Casby (see "The Reason You Suck" Speech). Affery bites back at Flintwinch and Mrs. Clennam by supporting Rigaud's evidence. Flintwinch bites back at Mrs. Clennam by revealing that he kept a certain document instead of destroying it.
The Jeeves: Mr. Merdle's eerily capable butler, who makes him feel like an intruder in his own mansion.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Pancks gives an epic one to Casby in front of all their tenants, showing them once and for all who's really been exploiting them. Then he hacks off Casby's hair.
The Reveal: Subverted. Amy Dorrit chooses not to tell Arthur Clennam about his real mother.
Trophy Wife: Mrs. Merdle has a "bosom to hang jewels upon, and Mr. Merdle had bought her for the purpose".
Ungrateful Bastard: The Dorrits, so much. When Amy works all day to support her father, he complains that she doesn't spend enough time with him. When she feels homesick for the Marshalsea after they're freed, he calls her insensitive for even mentioning it. Fanny accuses her sister of a lack of family pride for refusing to take bribes from Mrs. Merdle, and the whole lot of them (except Amy) completely ignore Mr. Clennam once they're free even though he is responsible for getting them out of jail.
Unexpected Inheritance: Two of them. The first gets Mr. Dorrit out of prison. Amy Dorrit refuses the second one, because it would mean revealing that Mrs. Clennam has covered up Arthur's real parentage.
Vast Bureaucracy: The Circumlocution Office again. It's some of Dickens' most devastating political satire.
Woman Scorned: Miss Wade hires Rigaud to spy on her former lover, Henry Gowan.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Mr. Merdle. The scenes in the 2009 adaptation where he talks to the parrot, or when he quietly and politely asks Fanny to lend him a penknife to slit his own throat with are downright tragic. Sadly, he also proves the lynchpin that ruins the happiness of many, of whom our main cast is but a small percentage.