For Mr Dombey pride of position and mercantile reputation are gods to which all human feelings must be sacrificed. But his cruelties to his wife and daughter, as Raymond Williams points out in his introduction, are not presented within a narrow framework of individual morality. In 'Dombrey and Son' Dickens was attempting something new in English fiction, to look beyond isolated errors and vices to their breeding ground within society. What is seen, and challenged, is a system which breeds misery.
The bustling, teeming streets of mid-Victorian London with their age-old vistas and traditions come vividly alive in this novel. But year by year the new railway technology is remaking London in its own image. In his descriptive passages - and in the plot itself - Dickens responds to the real contradictions of Britain's new industrial power: its potential for creation and destruction, for life and death.