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Commentary - 'Bleak House'

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Commentary - 'Bleak House' Dickens proves himself to be a true master of description through his novel 'Bleak House'. The book represents what seems to be the highest point of his intellectual maturity, portraying a dismal city under attack by dismal weather tied by perfectly dismal laws. Dickens opens chapter one by introducing literary devices such as personification, phonological features and repetition to his description, thus setting the scene whilst stressing the mood he is trying to convey. The usage of the present tense rather than the past removes the linear dictation by time and restricts knowledge to situation rather than chronology. To refer to the end (or non-end) of the fog would allow the reader to share knowledge with the narrator, and assume that by the next chapter, it would all be gone. 'Fog everywhere' shrouds the reader's view, not only physically, but also emotionally. By applying a present tense to this chapter, Dickens has removed the idea that the fog has limits, it becomes immovable as it has no ends. In doing so, Dickens controls the reader in accepting its presence and learning to benefit from the thinner areas. ...read more.


Furthermore, this centres the reader's thoughts on the Chancellor and indirectly focuses on the unethical, unprincipled ways of today's society. The fog described in the second paragraph is another focal point in 'Bleak House', where Dickens personifies it to an extent that it 'cruelly pinches the toes'. A negative connotation of the fog is portrayed, where it seems to be almost a wicked character that can be visualised by the reader. Dickens also personifies gas which 'seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look'. Gas is not usually associated with anything, but used in this context, Dickens has given even gas an evil role in the novel, characterizing it to have a sense of authority and human features, allowing the reader the illustrate a wider mental picture of the scene. Through the absence of determiners in 'Bleak House', Dickens draws the reader's attention to the busier side of London as opposed to the creepy engulfing fog. 'Foot passengers, jostling', 'Horses', 'Dogs' all present a portrayal of something quite out-of-control and hectic, indicating to the reader an illustration of the streets of London as well a feeling of the restless atmosphere. ...read more.


Superlatives are employed in 'Bleak House' indicating a definite difference to the text virtually drawing it to a close. 'The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest'. Through the use of superlatives here, Dickens has almost slowed down the rhythm he had built up, encouraging the reader to read it at a slower tempo, taking in each and every word thus allowing more time to create that vital mental image. 'Bleak House' has many linguistic features warped into its text, some of which contribute to the visual side of the mental picture, some on the phonological side allowing the reader to hear their own individual versions of the different sounds, and some which allow the reader to empathise with the writer. I feel the devices could contribute into making a potentially positive novel, however Dickens being Dickens utilises his expert use of authorial techniques allowing himself to subtly yet successfully criticise the social injustice and crime of his time. It is through the use of profound imagery that he is able to make such negative ideas most prominent in the minds of the readers, portraying an overall 'bleak' image. ...read more.

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