How does Charles Dickens build tension in chapter 47
The writer Charles Dickens is one of the most famous English of the Victorian era. He began his writing career with being a journalist. When being a journalist he drew sketches of characters which seemed real. They were related to the people he saw and talked with in his society. He was fond of reading picaresque novels of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding as a child. The novel he wrote about Oliver Twist was first a sketch of an orphan who was abandoned by the state in a magazine. His novels were often based on the society and the people he had met. He was a harsh critic of the poverty and social stratification of the Victorian society. Oliver Twist had many purposes that are brought up through Oliver's journey. This novel brought forward the issue of poverty, selfishness, capitalism, social welfare and child labour. One other very important reason why this novel was written was because he wanted to criticize the poor laws during the Victorian time. This is as the middle class people believed that people were poor because they were sinful and corrupt. Charles Dickens tried to show the middle class people through his novel that this was not true.
Charles Dickens literacy techniques in the novel ‘Oliver Twist’ provided the readers with a portrait of a young boy so good that his values are never changed. Even by cruel orphanages. This technique he used in his books created an image for the reader of the characters in his book. In this case it created sympathy by the readers towards Oliver Twist. He also employs lots of coincidences in his books. For example in the book ‘Oliver Twist’ Oliver turns out to be the lost nephew of the upper class family which rescues him from the dangers of the pickpocket group. Charles Dickens always tries to show that good will always wins. Charles Dickens creates lots of tension throughout the book. The chapter I’m going to look at is chapter 47. In this chapter he creates tension through the language he uses. His style of writing created tension. This is as he would leave the reader with a description of something or a situation without writing what it is.
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The novel ‘Oliver Twist’ was Charles Dickens second novel. Oliver Twist was born into a life of poverty and misfortune. Oliver was an orphan nearly from birth as his mother died as soon as he was born and his father left with an unexplained absence. Oliver spent the first nine years of his life at a baby farm in the care of a woman named Mrs. Mann along with other juvenile offenders. So Oliver is brought up in the poor-laws of the society and with little food and few comforts. The desperate hungry group of boys decided later on to draw lots and the loser must ask for another portion of gruel. The task that had to be done went to Oliver. At the next meal he then makes his famous request of ‘Please, sir, I want some more.’
In chapter 47 we learn more about Fagin, Nancy and Sikes. Fagin is a leader of a group of children. He is a crusty old man who teaches children how to make a living by pick pocketing and other criminal activities. Nancy is a helpless admirer of Bill Sikes and she is seen as the heroin as she tries to save Oliver. Although she still was a heartless criminal as she was influenced by Fagin at the age of six. Nancy is a confused character as she sometimes is taking the side of evil (Bill Sikes and Fagin) and sometimes the good side (Oliver). Bill Sikes is a brutal man and has a strong role to play in the novel. He is an aggressive criminal who has control over some of the characters actions in the novel. He is a man that people should not trust as he trusts no one himself. To show how brutal he is in this novel he has a bull terrier which he calls ‘Bull’s eye’ and beats the dog until it needs stitches. In chapter 47 we see that Nancy is suspicious of Fagin. This is as Fagin has interest in Oliver. The mysterious monk’s involvement with him has also made Fagin suspicious of her. He becomes so suspicious that he begins to have a person follow him to see what he does.
The first four paragraphs are roughly the same length. The only thing that differs in the sentence structure is the length of the sentences. In the opening paragraph the scene is set. In the opening few lines he describes his character action as well as comparing by showing the similar actions to ‘like some hideous phantom, moist from the grave, and worried by an evil spirit. Through this comparison the reader can work out that Fagin is an evil character. This sets an image in the readers mind and persuades them to dislike Fagin.
We are also told the time, place and characters all in the same sentence. I as a reader will see this to show us that this information is not important. This is as if the information was important he would have put it into different sentences and described it in more detail. By doing this it shows that this information will have little emphasis in the play. By using the long sentence which is descriptive he is building an atmosphere and tension. This is a way that Charles Dickens can create tension. For example, he can decrease the sentence length to create importance of something. He uses the long descriptive sentences when he needs to build an atmosphere.
In the third paragraph Fagin is called an ‘old man.’ Even the two paragraphs before he is demoralised. Fagin’s face was described as ‘distorted and pale’ with ‘so red and bloodshot’ eyes. He is described as a ‘hideous phantom’ that’s ‘worried by an evil spirit.’ The descriptive language in long sentences used to describe Fagin shows us that Charles Dickens is trying to create tension. We know from the text that he has not been sleeping for a while and is frightened of the police finding him. Again, in the second paragraph there are long descriptive sentences used to build tension. We are described how desperate and poor he is now. The fourth paragraph is linked to the third paragraph. The fourth paragraph is a series of thoughts expressed as feelings. In a long sentence we are told of ‘the fear of detection’ Fagin is feeling. At the end of the paragraph we are reinforced of Fagin’s character as we are again reminded that ‘every evil thought and blackest purpose lay working at his heart.’ In these four paragraphs the change in sentence length helps create tension.
Further on we notice that attitude can be physical and emotional. The emotions are exaggerated to add more effect on the reader. Each time Fagin speaks we are told of the mood he’s speaking in. His movement is described to full detail. This is to create a tense atmosphere. When Sikes is introduced we see the use of slang words. This language is used to show how intellect he is and where he had come from, which was the streets. Fagin had been waiting for Sikes and was never interested in the job Sikes had done. We see that Fagin was frightened by the interest shown by Nancy in Oliver. So he felt a threat to his security but he was not prepared to do anything himself. This showed how much of a lazy character he was.
Charles Dickens then moves onto theatrical dialogue. This is when the characters become melodramatic. We now read of “hell’s fire” in reference to Bill Sykes. The language used when writing the dialogue in melodramatic language is an over exaggeration of each action done. The exaggerated movements help create more emotions and make the reader more interested in the book as the bold actions create a sense of uncertainty of what will happen next. The use of explanation marks and other grammar helps create tension as the reader feels the characters are showing more authority. When Fagin spoke the words ‘there’ and ‘damme’ they had an explanation mark, even though the situation was not tense it was made to be by this. The dialogue between characters became shorter and snappier which creates interest for the readers as there was tension building up. The use of short questions and short answers helped create a scene of anxiety.
Charles Dickens uses animal imagery to describe the characters. For example in the second paragraph he describes Fagin when he ‘sat watching in his old lair’ and at the time was ‘absorbed in thought’
The use of punctuation makes the sentences flow more smoothly. It was as early as paragraph four in chapter forty seven. The use of semi colons was used to its best by the reader as it allowed a much longer sentence describing Fagin’s evil thoughts. This helped create anxiety and created thoughts in the reader’s mind of what he might do in this chapter.
In this novel Oliver's moral conscience about the sanctity of belongings seems natural in him. Furthermore, other children in the novel use irregular Cockney slang where as Oliver, peculiarly enough speaks in proper English. The opening paragraph of chapter 47 in Oliver Twist, "Fatal Consequences" sets the scene for the rest of the chapter. Giving the chapter the title "Fatal Consequences" immediately gives the impression that something bad and evil is going to happen. Dickens immediately sets the scene with ‘it was nearly two hours before day break.’ He also creates anxiety for the reader by using descriptive alliteration such as ‘sounds appear to slumber’, ‘streets are silent’ and 'still and silent' when describing the streets outside. Throughout the chapter hints are given to us of what will happen next. This is by the language techniques and sentence structure used. This is as it makes the text almost like a riddle and so keeps the reader guessing of what will happen. We are also given a detailed description of the character Fagin at the start which suggests that he will be the main character in this chapter. Charles Dickens uses phrases such as "the streets are silent" to describe the place and time. This builds a mysterious atmosphere. By creating this tension it helps to prepare the reader for the dramatic events that will occur later on in the chapter. A summary of this novel is that Sikes delivers stolen goods to Fagin. That night Fagin and Noah narrate the details of Nancy’s journey. Fagin decides not to tell Sikes that Nancy was adamant that her friends don’t get into trouble. In anger Sikes dashes home and beat Nancy to death while she begged for forgiveness.