What are the top signs you're living in a Dickens novel?

Mallory Ortberg, writer for the site The Toast, poked fun at Dickens plotlines with such signs as 'You have only to see a letter once, but you will remember the hand that wrote it for the rest of your days.' What signs do you think indicate that you've stumbled into a Dickens book?

By , Staff Writer

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    Paula Wilcox stars in a theatrical production of
    'Great Expectations.'
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Since he was an extremely prolific author, it’s understandable that author Charles Dickens would have similar characters and plotlines appear in his works.

And now the website The Toast has chronicled some of the most frequently occurring devices in Dickens’ books in a new article titled “How To Tell If You Are In A Charles Dickens Novel.”

The article’s author, Mallory Ortberg, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the many tragic circumstances often faced by Dickens’ characters. Some telling signs that you are inhabiting Dickens’ world include “Your father and mother have died at least once in the last year,” “You are a thinly veiled caricature of Hans Christian Andersen,” and “The only thing more evil than a headmaster is a landlord.”

Recommended: Charles Dickens: 10 quotes on his birthday

Ortberg also tweaks unlikely devices in Dickens’ stories with such signs as “You have only to see a letter once, but you will remember the hand that wrote it for the rest of your days.”

Check out the full list here. Other readers pitched in with ideas on the Toast site, with commenter C.B. Blanchard adding that people should “beware the next time you have a cough. It's the consumption” and reader Dorothea Brooke writing, “Many of your friends and acquaintances have multi-syllabic and/or portmanteau names. You should have learned by now to judge them accordingly.”

Dickens’ two hundredth birthday arrived in February 2012 and prompted new examination of the author’s championing of the poor, though as noted by Lillian Nayder, author of the Catherine Dickens biography “The Other Dickens,” the author is hard to fit into our contemporary political party definitions.

However, Ruth Richardson, author of the biography “Dickens and the Workhouse,” says the writer changed the way poverty-stricken people were portrayed in literature.

“When Dickens was first writing, authors usually showed the poor as pathetic, not clever or funny," she said. "Dickens was highly unusual in showing them as the hu­man equals of anybody, which was one of the reasons he was so swiftly popular and why he has remained so.”

While film and TV adaptations of the writer’s work have been quite common, the author himself made it to the big screen this past winter with the release of  “The Invisible Woman,” which starred “The Grand Budapest Hotel” actor Ralph Fiennes as Dickens.

Are you a Dickens fan? Do you have a way to tell you’re in one of his novels? Add it to the comments below.

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