Literary Writing Style of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is the icon of his age, and even in this modern era, his work continues to captivate readers worldwide. His own unique style comprised his original word choice, figurative language, fresh and crispy sentence structure, socially relevant thematic strands, and also relatable to readers. Some of the best features of his writing style are as follows.

Charles Dickens’ Word Choice

In terms of diction or word choice, Charles Dickens is placed second after Shakespeare. It is stated that he has introduced several words into English vocabulary through his fictional works. Some important words such as rampage, butter-fingers, tousled, sawbones, confusingly, natural-looking, and tintack, with several others, have been found in entries in OED. This extract from Great Expectations shows how Charles Dickens uses appropriate words in appropriate places.

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. – Great Expectations

Charles Dickens’ Sentence Structure and Syntax

Not only in Great Expectations but also in several other novels, Charles Dickens has demonstrated his mastery in jotting down unique and interesting extraordinary sentences that jolt the minds of the readers. For Example, in Great Expectation, he has given the description of a man in such a way that anaphoric usage of “and with” makes sentences interesting and readable. In some other places, however, he has used repetitions in that they seem exotic such as in the first passage of A Tale of Two Cities.

Charles Dickens’ Figurative Language

Dickens is also the master of descriptive writing besides narrative writing. The simple passage taken from Great Expectations shows how he wields figures of speech to describe things, persons, and places.

“The man, after looking at me for a moment, turned me upside down and emptied my pockets. There was nothing in them but a piece of bread. When the church came to itself––for he was so sudden and strong that he made it go head over heels before me, and I saw the steeple under my feet––when the church came to itself, I say, I was seated on a high tombstone, trembling, while he ate the bread ravenously.” – Great Expectations.

This passage shows that his images are crispy and dry, while he resorts to first-person narrative to give credence to these descriptions. That is why his images bring dry things and people to live and create stereotypical figures that stay in the minds of the readers for ages.

Charles Dickens’ Rhythm and Component Sounds

Charles Dickens was not a great poet, and yet he used rich poetic phrases in his narratives. He has used cadence, sounds, pitch, and echoes in such a way that his prose has the poetic quality of great poets. For example, the first passage from A Tale of Two Cities shows it as given.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”  – From A Tale of Two Cities

The repetition of “it was”, the anaphoric use of “we” and the constant use of consonance and assonance show his skill in creating the rhythmic pattern in his writing.

Charles Dickens’ Rhetorical Patterns

Rhetorical patterns are written mostly narration, description, and comparison-contrast. Charles Dickens’ rhetoric sprouts from a real English landscape, enriching his narrative’s legitimacy as well as credibility. The rest is done by the lifelike characters who become icons due to their idiosyncratic behavior. Rhetorical strategies of parallels and repetitions further add to his rhetoric. The above passage from A Tale of Two Cities shows how he uses parallel structure to suit his context and purpose. The following passage presents a young man with a specific habit of secrecy and rhetorical strategy of Dickens that is used by him such that it seems he is a lifelike figure.

That young man hears the words I speak. That young man has a secret way pecooliar to himself, of getting at a boy, and at his heart, and at his liver. It is in wain for a boy to attempt to hide himself from that young man. A boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, may tuck himself up, may draw the clothes over his head, may think himself comfortable and safe, but that young man will softly creep and creep his way to him and tear him open. (From Great Expectations

Charles Dickens’ Themes

Although it seems that Dickens chooses themes carefully, yet they are ordinary themes prevalent in the social fabric of England at that time. For example, he presents child labor in Hard Times and poverty in Great Expectations. This social criticism makes his readers aware of the injustice and bad education as shown through the character of Miss Havisham, Pip, and Magwitch.