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Charles Dickens’ Style On Dickens’ Style “Despite the great length of his major novels, Dickens deserves to be read slowly, with occasional pauses to.

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Presentation on theme: "Charles Dickens’ Style On Dickens’ Style “Despite the great length of his major novels, Dickens deserves to be read slowly, with occasional pauses to."— Presentation transcript:


2 Charles Dickens’ Style

3 On Dickens’ Style “Despite the great length of his major novels, Dickens deserves to be read slowly, with occasional pauses to reread a choice passage, because he is one of the most inventive and vigorous stylists in the whole range of English literature. Style, as we know, has many facets, and Dickens’ powerful rhythms, his supple patterns of

4 “alliteration, the hammer-blows of the anaphoric insistence he often favors, are all worthy of attention. But he is above all the great master of figurative language in English after Shakespeare.” Robert Alter, John Hopkins U.

5 Dickens’ Rhythms “A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.” GE, chapter one

6 Dickens’ Alliteration “The sun, the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man – burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory.” OT, p. 366

7 Dickens and anaphora “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, …” A Tale of Two Cities, chapter one

8 Dickens and figurative language Personification Simile Metaphor Overstatement Irony ** Figurative language is not to be taken literally!**

9 “Oh, Man, look here! Look, look down here!” exclaimed the ghost. “Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more. “They are Man’s…And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, for on his brow

10 “I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” A Christmas Carol, Stave the Third

11 What do we have here? “A gentleman in a white waistcoat said he was a fool. Which was a capital way of raising his spirits and putting him at ease.” p. 10 “Oliver remained a close prisoner in the dark and solitary room to which he had been consigned by the wisdom and mercy of the board.” p. 14

12 Or? “[Mr. Gamfield’s] villanous countenance was a regular stamped receipt for cruelty.” p. 20 “Bill had him on his back, scudded like the wind.” p. 184

13 What do we have here? “After a short altercation of less than three- quarters of an hour’s duration, the permission was most graciously conceded.” p. 33

14 “Hear it![cried Monks] Rolling and crashing on as if it echoed through a thousand caverns where the devils were from it.” p. 283

15 Try this one… “He [Monks] declined any renewal of the conversation [ with Fagin], however, for that night: suddenly remembering that it was past one o’clock. And so the amiable couple parted.” p. 196

16 A general definition Satire is “the literary art of diminishing a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking toward it attitudes of amusement, contempt, indignation, or scorn. The butt of satire may be a person, a class, an institution, a nation, or even the whole race of man.” M.H. Abrams

17 and satire Juvenalian satire -- direct, biting criticism in the author’s own voice Horatian satire -- gentler, delivered indirectly by characters

18 “The opening chapters may seem a little declamatory, even strident—some of Dickens’ furious interjections might well have been cut. But remember, this is a young man’s book…[and]it would be hard to imagine a more remarkable literary debut.” Irving Howe, introduction, x-xi

19 What are his targets? Oliver and the adults’ response to his request for more gruel Gamfield Bumble’s comments on paupers’ ingratitude Commenting on Oliver eating scraps

20 “I wish some well-fed philosopher, whose meat and drink turn to gall within him; whose blood is ice, whose heart is iron; could have seen Oliver Twist clutching at the dainty viands that the dog had neglected. I wish he could have witnessed the horrible avidity with which Oliver tore the bits asunder with all the ferocity of famine.” pp. 28 - 29

21 What about imagery? ickens wrote, “It is difficult for a large- headed, small-eyed youth, of lumbering make and heavy countenance, to look dignified under any circumstances; but

22 Continued… “it is more especially so, when superadded to these personal attractions are a red nose and yellow smalls.” p. 31

23 Examine this, please “The man’s face was thin and very pale; his hair and beard were grizzly; his eyes were bloodshot. The old woman’s face was wrinkled; her two remaining teeth protruded over her under lip; and her eyes were bright and piercing. Oliver was afraid to look at either her or the man. They seemed so like the rats he had seen outside.” p. 36

24 “The days were peaceful and serene; the nights brought with them neither fear nor care; no languishing in a wretched prison, or associating with wretched men; nothing but pleasant and happy thoughts.” p. 239

25 “So three months glided away; three months which, in the life of the most blessed and favored of mortals, might have been unmingled happiness, and which, in Oliver’s were true felicity. With the purest and most amiable generosity on one side; and the truest, warmest, soul-felt…

26 “gratitude on the other; it is no wonder that, by the end of that short time, Oliver Twist had become completely domesticated with the old lady and her niece, and that the fervent attachment of his young and sensitive heart, was repaid by their pride in, and attachment to, himself.” p. 241

27 What else? “Take that baby out,’ when the gravity of justice was disturbed by feeble cries, half- smothered in the mother’s shawl, from some meagre infant. The room smelt close and unwholesome; the walls were dirt- coloured; and the ceiling blackened. There was an old smoky bust over the mantel- shelf, and a dusty clock above the dock– the only thing present, that seemed to go on

28 “as it ought; for depravity, or poverty, or an habitual acquaintance with both, had left a taint on all the animate matter, hardly less unpleasant than the thick greasy scum on every inanimate object that frowned upon it.” pp. 336 - 337

29 What makes us laugh here? “Brittles always was a slow boy, ma’am,” replied the attendant. And seeing, by-the- by, that Brittles had been a slow boy for upwards of thirty years, there appeared no great probability of his ever being a fast one.” p. 213

30 “When we read Dickens…we are reading all sorts of other things at the same time— plot, character, moral dilemma, historical predicament, and so forth—but we can see all these in their full complexity only if we attend to the illuminating play of style.” Robert Alter


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