Little Dorrit is a serial novel by Charles Dickens.
It is a work of satire on the shortcomings of the government and society of the period.
Much of Dickens' ire is focused upon the institutions of debtors' prisons-in which people who owed money were imprisoned, unable to work, until they have repaid their debts.
The representative prison in this case is the Marshalsea where the author's own father had been imprisoned.
Most of Dickens' other critiques in this particular novel concern the social safety net: industry and the treatment and safety of workers; the bureaucracy of the British Treasury and the separation of people based on the lack of interaction between the classes.
Arthur Clenham, who is returning to London to see his mother following the death of his father with whom he had lived for twenty years in China.
As he died, his father had given Arthur a mysterious watch, murmuring, "Your mother." Arthur assumes that it was intended for Mrs Clennam, whom he and the world supposed to be his mother.