What effect does Dickens achieve with personification in Chapter 5, Book 1 in A Tale of Two Cities?

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In Chapter 5 of Book 1 Dickens personifies hunger. He does this by giving the sensation of hunger the ability to take action in people’s lives. It is noteworthy that Dickens does this immediately after describing a comical scene in which people are attempting to suck up wine from a broken cask off the very street. For Dickens, tragedy and comedy are often closely related.

In this paragraph Dickens repeats the capitalized word “Hunger” eight times. Lines like “Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder” show hunger with a will, something that, in extreme conditions, is able to take action on its own.

The overall effect is to establish in the reader  a sense of desperation on the part of the French people. These are people who have been pushed to the brink. It gives a basis to the accounts of the French Revolution that are to follow.


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