As in many of Dickens's novels, food is an important symbol, representing happiness, prosperity, and abundance, as well as poverty in some cases. A sign or symbol of the good life is the amount...
Two interesting language features Dickens uses in his Pickwick Papers include symbols and the pathetic fallacy.
As in many of Dickens's novels, food is an important symbol, representing happiness, prosperity, and abundance, as well as poverty in some cases. A sign or symbol of the good life is the amount and quality of food available to people like Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Weller. These men are comfortably fat, another symbol of prosperity.
Pickwick dines on such protein rich and fresh foods as sole, poultry, veal, and French beans, but perhaps the best example of food abundance is seen at Wardle's Christmas party, where the guests sit:
down by the huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary wash-house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible.
Food, in this instance, is intertwined and almost inseparable from the sociable, contented life, and a potent symbol of it.
However, Dickens does not neglect the poor, and we can contrast the meals the Pickwickians eat with the food of those without. For example, a symbol of the poor's limited food choices is oysters. In Dickens's time, oysters were considered a somewhat disgusting form of nutrition, like the eels fished out of the Thames and sold cheaply. Oysters, therefore, represent those without resources. As Sam says:
poverty and oysters always seem to go together ... ven a man's wery poor, he ... eats oyster in reg'lar desperation.
Another literary device,related to symbolism, that Dickens uses is the pathetic fallacy. This occurs when the weather or the outward scene of a locale represents the inner life or feelings of a character. After being sobered by his time in prison, Pickwick acutely notices the landscape of Birmingham, a center of industrialism. Its outer bleakness reflects Pickwick's sobered interiority as he notes:
The straggling cottages by the road-side, the dingy hue of every object visible, the murky atmosphere, the paths of cinders and brick-dust, the deep-red glow of furnace fires in the distance, the volumes of dense smoke issuing heavily forth from high toppling chimneys, blackening and obscuring everything around.