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Critical essays and articles on "The Bleak House"

The Man in the Street

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.

By Luck

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 jingle-bells.

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…

(by MissJane)

Charles Dickens' inimitable style

Charles 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”.

In his 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.

"Presently 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.

Sometimes 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.

Another 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”.

Charles 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 tremendous fellow”.

So, 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.

(by Rina)

A Master of a word>

Dickens is a master of a word, he is a master of description. But his characters’ look  is 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.

Dickens novels 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.

The author 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?"

After 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 writing.

(by Megastarosta)


Dickens 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 information.

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 sensual details.

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.

(By Asya)

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