"Perhaps, if one could fix onto one of the most personal aspects of Dickens's technique, one would speak of the strange languages he concocts for the solitariness of the soul, and the abruptness of his tempo. His human fragments suddenly shock against one another in collisions of Democritus's atoms or of the charged particles of modern physics. Soldiers, holding out handcuffs, burst into the blacksmith's house during Christmas dinner at the moment when Pip is clinging to the table leg in an agony of apprehension over his theft of the pork pie. A weird old woman clothed in decayed satin, jewels and spider webs, with one shoe off, shoots out her finger at the bewildered child, with the command: “Play!" A pale young gentleman appears out of a wilderness of cucumber frames, and daintily kicking up his legs and slapping his hands together, dips his head and butts Pip in the stomach. These sudden confrontations between persons whose ways of life have no habitual or logical continuity with each other suggests the utmost incohesion in the stuff of experience.

"Technique is vision. Dickens's technique is an index of a vision of life that human separatedness is the ordinary condition, where speech is speech to nobody and where human encounter is mere collision." [p. 127]

Related Materials

van Ghent, Dorothy. The English Novel: Form and Function. New York: Harper Torchbook, 1961.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 1996