The architect of writing


One of the keys of Dickens‘s success lies in the choice of his narrative canvas . Actually, it wasn’t anything new, because that was the typical canvas of the Morality Plays:the fight of good vs evil; but he customized that scheme adding a generous dose of sympathy and hope, thus making his fortune. The adoption of the typical dualism of the Moralities proved very effective as it was clear and particularly suitable to Dickens’s talent in characterizing all that vast humanity that peopled his novels. This duality became the distinctive mark of his works, in fact under the macro-dualism good/evil, Dickens always created many other micro-dualisms that were the frame of the narration. The famous passage when Oliver Twist walks up to the cook to ask for more is a sheer example of this technique. The macro-dualism is made up by the children/good vs adults/evil. The battlefield is the canteen where the kids used to have their gruel. The place seems very big and the copper is placed very distant from the reach of the hungry boys, as a mirage. Dickens says that this is the place where the boys “were fed“, thus stressing the psychological submission of the children with the usage of the passive voice plus a verb that implies passiveness. The cook who “ladles the gruel” is actually seen as the master, since their survival depends on him. The food is scarce, the bowls are small and the spoons seem big, the hunger is unbearable. Something has to be done. Under the threat of a big fat boy who proclaims himself ready to devour the “tender” small weak child who slept next him they decide it was high time to ask for more. Oliver will have to go to face the master. The imminent fight at dinner time is pointed out the choice of words. The apron of the cook becomes a uniform and his assistants range behind him ready for the battle. After Oliver’s request, the cook, who is a “fat,healthy man” becomes “pale” as if he were sick  and looks at him with “stupefied astonishment” but soon after he recovers himself and hits him with his ladle. Game over. Even the rhythm of the narration is dualistic with a prolonged succession of long and short sentences, The long sentences are descriptive and create the atmosphere, while the short ones either mark a sense of expectation or coincide with the speed the boys devour their food: “the bowls never wanted washing” – 5 words – “the gruel disappeared” – 3 words and record . I have just one word for his writing:amazing.


9 thoughts on “The architect of writing

  1. I haven’t read any Dickens’ novel yet but I think that despite him being a great author and writer, a vision of the world as black and white is quite outdated and incorrect. There is no good or evil, instead reality is a bit more complicated; it’s more of a big gray cloud where what’s right and what’s wrong are not that clearly defined. Still I’m very curios about his talent in the use of punctuation, sentences, words and scenarios.

  2. He’s very effective, he makes you feel like you’re living the character’s feelings and he is also able to say a lot of things with a few words. He’s great!

  3. I think Dickens’s have type of writing different from the other authors.
    The fact that he writes short phrases like the speed of the boys to eat the gruel is beautiful: I hadn’t noticed that.
    I also think that this duality is used to keep suspense for all the story.

  4. The thing that strikes me most is the fact that Dickens, through irony, makes us understand the true essence of what children lived inside workhouses. The exaggerated astonishment of the “healthy, fat man”, on the one hand makes you smile, but on the other hand, it brings out the true attitude that the masters have towards innocent children, that is an extreme superiority and exploitation. Children were only used: the fact that Oliver Twist is sold for a few pounds shows us the closed and almost fearful mentality of the past.
    Dickens writes all this through a syntax that gives the reader a certain suspense and always gives hope for the happy ending; in my opinion this is precisely the beauty of his works.

  5. I do not pay attention very often to the way with which the writers narrate the events, but in this case Dickens involves us in the scene as if we were there in that canteen and were as hungry as the children of the workhouse were. I felt anxious just like Oliver Twist when he had to ask for some more, because the meanings of the words that Dickens uses are very effective in my opinion.

  6. In addition to the skill of creating dualisms during the Novel, what makes Dickens even more special than the others author is to tell about something that many at the time lived and had lived on their skin. Dickens himself, as a child, had experienced that situation of poverty and exploitation of workhouses. This corroborates the story, makes sure that those people did not feel abandoned by everyone and that there was someone who was doing something to raise awareness, and at the same time make them passionate about a type of Novel never seen before.

  7. I also like the structure of his texts. It is simple and sliding, capture the reader’s attention and gives rise to desire to know more … even if he doesn’t end well.

  8. Dickens wanted people to be aware of what was going on in the real life; he writes about reality. He become so popular because he was the right man at the right time. He was the only one who understood the power of communication, and that’s why everyone believed in him. He has lived thanks to his art, and he has been the first one in the whole history of art to do so. His greatness lies in all these things I mentioned before, but also in his ability to write: his irony, his continuous search for hope and his point of view about kids and adults. That is what made him an Artist.

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