For more than a half century, students of Dickens have emphasized the crucial importance of the traumatic period in his life when his parents suddenly removed him from school and their middle-class, more-or-less genteel environment, made him live apart from the family, and forced him to work at Warren's Shoeblacking factory and warehouse. As Walter Allen points out, this experience had crucial influence on (1) the writer's emphasis upon orphans and abandoned children, (2) the self-pity that permeates many of his works, and (3) their fairy-tale plots:
The blacking factory episode does not account for Dickens's genius, but it does, I believe, explain some of the forms his genius took, and it throws light on much that is otherwise baffling both in his art and his life. It explains why we so often find at the centre of his novels the figure of the lost, persecuted, or helpless child: Oliver Twist, Little Nell, David, Paul Dombey, Pip, and their near relations, Smirke and Jo, in Bleak House. It explains, too, why their rescue, when there is a rescue, so often has the appearance of a fairy-story ending, the result of what is sometimes called wishful thinking, just as the deaths of Little Nell, Paul Dombey, and Jo are dramatizations of his own self-pity. And it explains the dominant mood in which his world is created. It was not at all one of good- humoured acceptance of things, but a mood of nightmare compounded of lurid melodrama and savage comedy, relieved from time to time by unreflecting joy in the absurd and the comic for their own sakes'." [Allen, 166]
Alexander Welsh similarly argues
The secret memory of the blacking warehouse explains a great deal in Dickens's life and fiction. It partially explains why, in the midst of his success with Pickwick, he should begin a fairy tale of the workhouse child, Oliver Twist. It explains the vein of self-pity that crops up again and again in the novels, and particularly the childlike sentiment that if he had died or...