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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Is Dickens's language in Great Expectations almost poetic?

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Certainly, the opening scene of Chapter I of Great Expectations is one of the best in all of literature as there is metaphor and much imagery arranged with parallelism in the paragraphs :

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within twenty miles of the sea.  My first vivid impression of things seems to me to have gained on a memorable raw afternoon toward evening....I knew that the dark flat wilderness beyond was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing was the sea; and the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry was Pip.

Similarly, the description of the first convict is replete with imagery and parallelism:

 A fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a great iron on his leg.  A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied around his head.  A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped and shivered, and glared and growled [alliteration]; and who teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.

In the description of Uncle Pumblechook, Dicken employs figurative language, using simile:

...Uncle Pumblechook--a large, hard -breathing middle-aged, slow man, with a mouth like a fish, dull staring eyes, and sandy hair standing upright on his head, so that he looked as if he had just been all but choked, and had that moment come--...

Another passage of figurative language is in Chapter XXII in a passage in which Pip reflects that it has been some time since he has seen Joe and Biddy:

That I could have been at our old church in my old church-going clothes [alliteration], on the very last Sunday that ever was, seemed a combination of impossibilities, geographical and social, solar and lunar.  Yet in the London streets, so crowded with people and so brillantly lighted in the dusk of evening, there were depressing hints of reproaches for that I had put the poor old kitchen at home so far away; and in the dead of night, the footsteps of some incapable imposter of a porter [metaphor] mooning about Barnard's Inn, under pretence of watching it, fell hollow on my heart [metaphor]

 in Chapters XXII and XXIII, with the description of the ridiculous Mrs. Pocket and her frustrated husband, Dickens's language is playful, sentimental, cynical, imaginative, and comically ironic:

...I saw that Mr. and Mrs Pocket's children were not growing up or being brought up, but were tumbling up..... that there were no fewer than six little Pockets present, in various stages of tumbling up.  I had scarcely arrived at the total of six when a seventh was heard, as in a region of air, wailing dolefully.

...Miller, who was the other nurse, retired into the house, and by degrees the child's wailing was hushed and stopped, as if it were a young ventriloquist [simile] with something in its mouth. 

Then in Chapter XXIII the reader is introduced to Mr. Pocket:

He was a very young looking man, in spite of his perplexities, and his very gray hair, and his manner seemd quite natural.  I use the word natural in the sense of being unaffected; there was something comic in his distraught way as though it would have been downright ludicrous but for his own percept that it was very near being so.

Indeed, the prose of Charles Dickens contains a poetic beauty and color throughout.

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