What literary devices does Dickens employ and how do they enrich the story in A Christmas Carol?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Dickens uses similes throughout the book to make comparisons to enrich the reader’s experience and add humor.

One of the literary devices that Dickens uses profusely is the simile.  Dickens was very fond of similes, as many Victorians were.  There was even a game called similes that many Victorians played at parties!  You can see many examples of similes, a type of figurative language where the writer makes a comparison between two unlike things using “like” or “as,” throughout the book.  Dickens even makes a joke about a common simile.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.  … But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile… (Stave One)

Dickens makes a comparison between Marley and a door-nail.  It is a common idiom (a simile that has been so often used it has become well known), “dead as a door-nail.”  Dickens then goes on to use humor, making fun of the phrase and saying that door-nails don’t seem dead enough to him, but he will go ahead and use the phrase anyway.

Dickens uses other similes.  Look at how he describes his main character, Ebenezer Scrooge.

Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. (Stave One)

Apparently to Dickens, oysters did not hang out in packs.  This simile is also funny, and it serves to not only add humor and interest to the story, but also to characterize Scrooge.  We get a picture of him as hard and menacing, as well as being alone.  I do not want to hang out much with oysters either.

Throughout the book, Dickens uses his beloved similes to enrich his writing.  He adds a touch of humor, pizazz, and interest.  With these similes, he can better describe his characters and settings, capture his readers’ attention, and amuse himself all at once!

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