In his book Dickens managed to make the reader be an
immediate observer of all events that happen during the narration. Using special
stylistic devices, Dickens give us great descriptions of this or that scene. Some
object and characters become symbolic, and help the readers understand the
message of the author better. The description becomes more precise and it helps
the reader to create a full image in his mind.
There are so many symbols in the book that can be discussed
very scrupulously. In fact almost every image is created very thoroughly and I
would like to talk about what the author needs the image of "the man in the
street” for. So how does the author create a collective portrait of the common
Londoner, "the man in the street”? And what can we learn about a poor passer-by
from the book?
First of all, according to Dickens, a man in the
street can’t sustain his living. Poverty is everywhere, and while reading the
chapters, we can feel that streets are grey, and its dwellers just create the
same grey mass; poor people who cannot afford anything more than just doing
simple things, living day by day and knowing nothing more but that ordinary
life, and those severe rules of living. Maybe that is why a man in the street
likes leading a "slow” life, because there is nothing that he can strive for. He
knows that every day is just the same, and nothing will be changed because he
was born here, in this "world” and he simply cannot change his life for
something better. Hence the man prefers hiding things from the others. It seems
that all the feelings and emotions are kept somewhere inside him, and will
never be expressed. But if no one wants to learn about his own feelings, why
should he be interested in the life of the others? And there is really no
interest: people are quite neglect there and they do not pay any attention to
the things and problems that do not concern them. They are unwilling to talk,
to go deep into some problems, they do not want to solve or change anything.
One more thing that becomes so clear from the author’s
story is that the common Londoner in the street is an illiterate man. But in
fact the reason for it is these living conditions and "environment” where he
has to live. People exist like a crowd and remind us of some "criminals”, who
think only about their well-being (if it is possible to call things that they
have a kind of "well-being”).
That is the portrait of a common Londoner that comes
to us from the pages of "Bleak House”. I must also admit that every description
is supported with a good metaphor or sensual detail or some other stylistic device
that Dickens uses so often and so neatly. Everything is to the point and all
these images create a great picture in our mind.
Dickens is a Master
of Sensual Detail
"Bleak House” is the
first coin in my piggy bank of Dickens’ works. But I’m sure this coin is going
to give rise to a whole literary fortune still in store for me. And I have to
admit that my high appreciation of Dickens’ novel stems from one thing in particular
– that is language. The language of Dickens’ works is sometimes beyond one’s
expectations – it is full of metaphors, similes, repetitions and other
impressive devices. At the bottom of this stylistic pyramid, however, lies that
basic, but effective technique known as providing the reader with the sense of
reality. The text abounds in sensual details which enable the reader not only
to imagine the setting and the type of literary character, but also to get the
feeling of involvement into the events of the novel. Being quite perplexed with
the elaborate plot of "Bleak House”, one can revel in the way the author
presents the information. For a true connoisseur of literary art the language
of Dickens’ works may seem an exquisite pleasure to read; but even for an
unsophisticated reader it is a great opportunity to take delight in very
powerful observations of a famous author.
It is noticeable that
sensual details prevail over the rest of the literary devices used in the text.
In my opinion, this makes the text airy while set phrases and speech clichés usually
burden the narration with unnecessary ponderousness. At the same time, it
facilitates the text with colorful expressions and complete transfer of the
message, images and moods.
One of the central images
rendered through many episodes is weather. "The vases on the stone terrace in
the foreground catch the rain all day; and the heavy drops fall ‑ drip, drip,
drip ‑ upon the broad flagged pavement…” Things which are very concrete in meaning are used as a perfect
description of rainy and gloom weather. They give the reader the sense of
never-stopping drizzle, soaking people’s clothes and minds, creating the whole
atmosphere of the novel. Here we can
also find an example of onomatopoeia – an imitation of sounds of natural phenomena.All this is of great help to make the reader get the meaning of the
symbols in the novel – rain and foggy weather.
"The room, which was strewn with papers and nearly filled by a great writing‑table” is a vivid description of size
and volume. This sensual detail, using hyperbole as a basis, renders an image
of a room being crammed with a large piece of furniture (dirty and littered to
an unimaginable extent) which leaves no space for anything else. The picture of
the untidy room is accompanied by the description of its dwellers: "But what
principally struck us was a jaded and unhealthy‑looking though by no means
plain girl at the writing‑table, who sat biting
the feather of her pen and staring at us. I suppose nobody ever was in such a state of ink”. Each detail suggests a
certain conclusion about the character. The nervous state of the girl is
rendered through the remark "biting the
feather of her pen”; her day-and-night killing work leaves her no time to
put herself to rights.
In general, sensual details are of great
importance when describing a character’s personality. "I felt that I was
choking again <…> But I gave the housekeeping keys the least shake in the
world as a reminder to myself, and folding my hands in a still more determined
manner on the basket, looked at him quietly”. Esther Summerson’s coyness and hesitation
are given special prominence by a slight clanging of the keys as if of remote
Almost every episode
teems with sensual details of different types: direct, or explicit; those which
provide allusions to some other episode in the text; concrete details helping
to describe abstract notions. It seems the author was quite aware of his
brilliant style of writing – one sensual detail generates another; their
interlacing creates a full image imprinted in a reader’s memory and appealing
to the reader’s feelings. What is more vital for an author: to set a strict
frame of logic or to merge a reader into the atmosphere of events which will be
etched indelibly in mind and heart? The latter is probably the answer…
Dickens' inimitable style
Dickens is a well-known writer who manages to create charming,
captivating atmosphere in all his novels. He creates this effect by
using different stylistic devises aimed at making the narration more
expressive and vivid. Let's take a brief look at the stylistic
devises used in the novel "Bleak House”.
novel Charles Dickens tends to use a great deal of sensual details
and abstract metaphors. One of these sensual details is light. In the
description of Mrs. Jellyby's house we come across the following
lines: "The morning was raw, and the fog still seemed heavy-I
say seemed,for the
windows were so encrusted with dirt that they would have made
midsummer sunshine dim” – the very house
seems to be absolutely dark, there's no light in it as there is no
hope for the future for young Miss Jellyby and other Mrs. Jellyby's
children. Lost in the darkness, they are left by everybody, unable to
find their ways out. The absence of light creates gloomy and even
painful atmosphere. "There was a light
sparkling on the top of a hill before us, and the driver, pointing to
it with his whip and crying, "That's Bleak House!" - here
the image of light somehow symbolises Esther's expectations. She's
going to meet Mr. Jarndyce and she is thinking about this meeting
during all her way to the Bleak House. Here this light becomes a
symbol of hope again.
we lost the light, presently saw it, presently lost it, presently saw
it” – Ada, Richard and
Esther don't know what is waiting for them in the Bleak House,
whether it will bring them happiness, or on the contrary, heart them.
Their uncertainty is reflected by the light they see and then lose,
then find again and lose again as if they are trying to predict their
future, being afraid of its obscurity but at the same time expecting
something good to happen.
sensual details merge with metaphors, like in the following case:
"Niece with a sharp nose like a sharp autumn evening, inclining to
be frosty towards the end”. A young girl's small nose is
compared with an autumn evening – the reader almost feels its
coolness, its emptiness and hopelessness, the frost which is coming
soon, the atmosphere of estrangement. So this niece is regarded as a
cold, cheerless, miserable young girl.
phrase illustrates an abstract metaphor. Mr. Tulkinghorn is presented
as "An oyster of the old school whom nobody can open”. Here
we see no sensual detail but at the same time a vivid image of an old
man living solitary in his old house, keeping his secrets locked.
As it was written, "everything that can have a lock has got one;
no key is visible”.
Dickens also uses repetitions in order to create certain cumulative
effect and make the impact on the reader more dramatic, as in the
following case: "Then, with that impatient shake of himself, he
may growl in the spirit, "Rain, rain, rain! Nothing but rain-and
no family here!" as he goes in again and lies down with a gloomy
yawn”. Hopelessness and desperation are transmitted by these
lines, making the emotions stronger. Sometimes repetition is used to
emphasise this or that action or characteristic: "He was very,
very, very fond of Ada”. Convergence of repetition and parallel
constructions also creates expressive effect: "He was then the
most impetuous boy in the world, and he is now the most impetuous
man. He was then the loudest boy in the world, and he is now the
loudest man. He was then the heartiest and sturdiest boy in the
world, and he is now the heartiest and sturdiest man. He is a
what makes Charles Dickens' style unique and unrivalled? The answer
is quite obvious – it is the very way the author uses the language
– he plays with words and phrases, he creates vivid images and
manages to make a dynamic picture, avoiding clichés and
predictability. Being a skilful narrator, Charles Dickens is a master
of a word.
A Master of a word>
Dickens is a master of a word, he is a master
of description. But his characters’ lookis objective. Everybody who read Dickens’s stories will say that Dickens novels look like a big puzzle. At first sight
they don’t connect with each other but it is not true. Every little piece of
this novel is a necessary part for the whole picture. That is a masterpiece
because not every writer can divide the whole story into million of separate
events. As for me i met such a style of
writing for the first time in my life.And only at the end of the whole story i imagined the whole plot.
seem more like a collection of separate scenes, events than a single novel. The
plot develops slowly, I think it is for making the novel more interesting for
the reader. Dickens always wrote about his life, hi didn’t imagine or lie in
his works, he just personifies real people in is main characters.The main idea of this novel is to show how
slowly the judge process is and a special atmosphere of the novel help us to
understand why it is so. Dickens always wrote about his childhood, boyhood. His
life wasn’t a bad of roses and Dickens saw all lie, treachery, death and so on.
He wanted to show it, to described it and to share with the readers.
It is his
personal style. He describes in detail every little part and then glue it
together. Such a style is better for reader’s imagination and the story will
stay in his memory for ever.
The whole atmosphere of the first three chapters
didn’t change a lot during the whole novel. But in the next chapters the
atmosphere became better. We see London,
darkness, nasty weather, smog, mud. But Dickens is not so simple and he is not
a pessimist at all. That is why the mood of the novel, the atmosphere changed
in a better way. The day had brightened very much,
and still brightened as we went westward. We went our way through the sunshine
and the fresh air, wondering more and more at the extent of the streets, the
brilliancy of the shops, the great traffic, and the crowds of people whom the
pleasanter weather seemed to have brought out like many‑coloured flowers.
used a lot of different means of expressiveness of speech such as abstract
metaphor , repetitions and so on. "I began to keep the little
creatures," she said, "with an object that the wards will readily
comprehend. With the intention of restoring them to liberty. When my judgment
should be given. Yees! They die in prison, though. Their lives, poor silly
things, are so short in comparison with Chancery proceedings that, one by one,
the whole collection has died over and over again. I doubt, do you know, whether
one of these, though they are all young, will live to be free! Ve‑ry
mortifying, is it not?"
reading this paragraph we can clearly imagine and understand the whole
situation that describes in this paragraph.
The author used a lot of repetitions in his
novel. For example:
Although the morning was raw, and although the
fog still seemed heavy. To my mind this repetition shows us ordinary days in London, intensify this
dull and nasty atmosphere of the beginning of the story and intensify the
change in the novel.
That is Dickens. That is his personal style of
is a master of sensual detail
When reading Dickens one can’t but pay attention to his style, very
unique and very special. Reading Dickens one gets aesthetic pleasure. Dickens
uses English, or, let’s say, language, to create the necessary atmosphere.
Let’s begin our analysis with the key words. Key words are the words
most frequently used in the narration. Roughly speaking, it’s their aim to
create the atmosphere. In "Bleak house” key words are "fog”, ‘mud”, "smoke”,
"drizzle”, "mire”. They all have a negative connotation. Moreover, they all
belong to the lexico-semantic field of "weather”, having a common seme "bad”,
or "unpleasant”. Of course, I have chosen only those key-words that hint at the
emotional side of the plot. There are some more, dealing with actions and main
characters rather than feelings.
Let’s pass to literary devices. I’d like to begin with repetition. It’s
widely used here. Why? That’s done again to create the atmosphere, to emphasize
things. And there is one more thing. Very simple one actually. When you hear
something for the first time you analyze it, get some idea and draw
conclusions. But when you hear the same thing for the second time, you already
know the main idea, that’s why you grasp for additional, implied information. And
that’s the point. I suppose, Dickens uses repetition to draw the reader’s
attention to really important facts, not to let the just skip some meaningful
Repetition can also be explained with the help of the actual division of
the sentence, theme-rheme division. Theme is what we already know while rheme
is the new information. When repetition is used the theme in all the sentences
remains the same while the rheme changes. That’s why the reader’s eye perceives
only rheme, keeping theme in mind.
Another device Dickens uses is syntactical parallelism. What does it
consist in? It consists in using the same grammar construction in several
neighbour-sentences. (It may be combined with repetition). Then I went on, thinking, thinking, thinking; and the fire went on,
burning, burning, burning; and the candles went on flickering and guttering…Repetition
together with parallelism create the atmosphere of great tension, despair and,
at the same time, monotony. They "stretch” the time as well.
Let’s continue speaking about grammar. Short, "torn” sentences are also
a common thing in "Bleak house”. I had youth
and hope. I believe, beauty. It matters very little now. Neither of the three
served, or saved me. I have the honour to attend Court regularly. With my documents.
I expect a judgment. Shortly. On the Day of judgment. Dickens puts a comma
after every meaningful phraseme. That’s done to make readers get all the sense
of the question, with all details. Every shade of meaning deserves our
attention. Every secondary part of a
sentence becomes main.
I have now told you about different literary devices used in "Bleak
House”. But you may ask me, why I have said nothing about sensual details. But
what is a sensual detail? A sensual detail is a device used by the author to
influence our feelings, our perception of the story. Dickens is a master of
sensual detail because practically all the literary devices he uses can be
called sensual. Dickens speaks about emotions implicitly. And it means he uses
Let’s do a little experiment: open the book "Bleak house” somewhere and
begin reading. "There are also ladies and
gentlemen of another fashion, not so new, but very elegant, who have agreed to
put a smooth glaze on the world, and to keep down all its realities. For whom
everything must be languid and pretty. Who have found out the perpetual
stoppage. Who are to rejoice nothing, and be sorry for nothing. Who are not to
be disturbed by ideas. On whom even Fine Arts…” What do we have here?
Repetition? Yes, we do: nothing, who.
Syntactical parallelism? Yes, we do. Again. Ellipsis? Yes. These sentences have
only rheme, while the theme is clear from the first sentence. And all these
devices are used to create an image, an atmosphere. They are sensual details.
Dickens is without any doubt a master. A master of English. A master of
writing. A master of sensual detail.