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English Literature


Dickens' style of writing

As you work on a particular section of text from Great Expectations, look for the following characteristics of Dickens' writing:

Simon Callow as Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

  1. Dickens was once a newspaper reporter; his descriptions show a wonderful eye for detail.
  2. Great Expectations had to fill ten columns of All Year Round each week, for 36 weeks. Dickens' style of writing therefore 'filled space', and included lots of repetition and long lists.
  3. Dickens loved words, and liked to produce a 'pretty piece of writing' in different styles. He included lots of powerful adjectives [adjective: Word that describes nouns and pronouns - for example, 'red' is the adjective in the phrase 'the red apple'. ], and is famous for his use of metaphors [metaphor: An expression used to describe and/or compare a subject/action/person by the way it feels or what it resembles - eg 'sea of troubles', and 'drowning in debt' are metaphors. ] and similes [simile: An explicit comparison of one thing to another, using the words 'like' or 'as'. 'Sleeping like a log' and 'bright as a button' are similes. ]. His descriptions often present people, their surroundings, and even the weather, in ways which reinforce each other, so that a certain 'feel' is built up through the passage.
  4. From the early 1850s, Dickens gave public readings of his novels. His writing is rhythmic and designed to be read out loud. He loved to make young women in his audience laugh or weep, so many of his characters are either hilariously comic or heart-breakingly sentimental [sentimental: Expressive of or appealing to emotions and feelings such as love and nostalgia. ].
  5. Dickens was a master of dialect [dialect: The language of a particular subset of English speakers - often those living in a particular place - having its own unique diction, vocabulary, spelling and even grammar. ] and used what is called 'substandard' speech to add to the picture of a character he was building up.
  6. In 1857, Dickens wrote and acted in a play called The Frozen Deep. Critics believe this helped him to write the brilliant sections of dialogue in Great Expectations. Dickens is famous for his exaggeration, which critics have linked to his love of the stage.

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