What is the significance of the Fog in Bleak House? In relation to the first chapter only.

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In Bleak Houseby Charles Dickens, the fog is an extended metaphor depicting the corruption and evil that has seeped into society. Dickens personifies the fog, adding to its pervasive nature and paralleling the moral decay of London society. Here is the description of the fog:

Fog everywhere. Fog...

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In Bleak House by Charles Dickens, the fog is an extended metaphor depicting the corruption and evil that has seeped into society. Dickens personifies the fog, adding to its pervasive nature and paralleling the moral decay of London society. Here is the description of the fog:

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on the dock. Chance people on the bridges, peeping over the parapets, into a nether sky of fog, with fog all around them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

Shortly after this description, Dickens describes the Lord High Chancellor sitting in the High Court of Chancery, which is at the very heart of the fog. The fog itself is a metaphor for the corruption that has permeated every aspect of this city. It flows through the river, into every nook and cranny, including the ships that dock in the city and even the pipes of the people. There is seemingly nowhere one can go in this city to escape corruption and evil. It even seeps out of the city into the marshes and travels up to the bridges which give entrance and exit to the city.

This description of fog and metaphor for the moral decay of London sets the tone for the entire book. Readers know that they are entering a world of moral turpitude from the very first chapter with Dickens' description of the filth and pervasive fog of the city. The fog also diminishes people's ability to see the beauty and light of the sun and, metaphorically, the beauty and light of humanity.

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The famous description of the fog that is reported to us at the beginning of this excellent Dickensian classic seems to function as a way of pointing out the various sinister, evil and corrupting forces that lay upon the city of London just as the fog itself seems to form something of a shroud that covers every aspect of life. The fog is explicitly linked with pollution, as it rolls down the river, "where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. However, the fog is also personified as a cruel person, as the following quote demonstrates:

...fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck.

The way in which Dickens personifies the fog thus only helps build up this picture of the fog being an evil presence that is testament of the malign set of virtues and values that he has already written about in the Preface to this novel that draws attention to the injustices of the Chancery and how this is a dog-eat-dog world of no pity or hope.

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