Writing like the Dickens

Chances are you had to read A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, or Oliver Twist, or possibly all three at some point throughout middle and high school, and if you remember anything about them, it might be how dense and wordy they are. Verbosity is a trademark of Victorian Era novelist and publisher Charles Dickens.¬†Though he’s sometimes hard to read because of it, it’s the quality that makes his books so vivid. What he does is magnify the detail of every important action, character, and scene by carefully expanding, with language, the mental image he gives his reader.

This is actually how the themes of a book have their effect on the reader–by drawing our attention so closely to a particular aspect or detail that we can discern the intended meaning, and how it connects to other intended meanings, thereby allowing us to piece together the larger picture of the author’s point or message.

Dickens’ novels were originally serialized in the publication he owned, which was read mostly by educated, wealthy people; what’s so remarkable about this is that Dickens wrote primarily about poor, working-class people and the struggles and tragedies of their lives, so the class of society that actually read Dickens was getting a kind of worldly education they wouldn’t have received otherwise. In other words, Dickens is a master at talking directly to his audience in a compelling way, and his verbosity–apart from being his natural style, no doubt–was one of the ways he depicted crystal clear mental images for individuals who would never have seen them in real life.
If you’re interested in reading a Charles Dickens novel, the Drexel library has several in print, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations (my personal favorite), and A Tale of Two Cities.

Go check them out, and leave a comment about what you think! You will learn so much from Dickens about how the substance of fiction is crafted and presented.

Brannon Blunk
Hello there! My name is Brannon Blunk, and I'm a senior Custom-Designed Major at Drexel University. If you ever want to discuss something I write, I'd love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *