This lecture will show how Dickens's idyllic childhood was interrupted by a series of traumatic events: his father's imprisonment, his labour in a blacking factory, and his homelessness on the streets of London. These experiences shaped his sympathy for the poor and destitute and influenced his early writing of Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. We will trace his journey from that world into the respectable world of law and his critical attitude towards English justice of the period. His breakthrough into journalism and fiction-writing for periodicals gave Dickens a forum to criticise many aspects of English society. Through novels such as Bleak House and Great Expectations, Dickens developed a grand vision of the violence in English society against the unfortunate. But as we will see, his escape from childhood poverty never let him forget the possibility of a happy ending.