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By Dyson A (Ed)

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Dickens had the power of imagining odd physical details or habits which immediately give a sense of' aura' to the reader: we feel we know Sam Weller or Betsy Trotwood just as well as we know Casaubon or Margaret Schlegel. Dickens's choice of significant details also builds up a rich sense of personality. Of Miss Tox in Dombey and Son, Dickens writes: 'She was much given to the carrying about of small bags with snaps to them, that went off like little pistols when they were shut up . ' This immediately conjures up a picture of people jumping with surprise and alarm whenever Miss Tox is present; the picture gives an impression of Miss Tox's personality, of her fluttering incompetence and her continual nervous embarrassments.

Man's comic misfortune is to be placed in a world which he can never understand and which defies all his attempts to impose order. After Pickwick, Winkle and Snodgrass have been left stranded on the way to Dingley Dell, they are still in possession of the horse which had pulled the chaise. They approach a little road-side public house, which has 'one or two deformed hay-ricks behind, a kitchen garden at the side, and rotten sheds and mouldering out-houses, jumbled in strange confusion, all about it'.

The kindliness and integrity of Mr Weller, Peggotty and Wemmick demonstrate Dickens's faith in the value of human life. Is the dignity of a wedding an absurd show or an eternal sacrament? Wemmick taking a fishing-rod to his wedding represents the human comic misfortune of being placed in a world in which we understand nothing of our situation, and in which man is a creature of odd habits and needs, yet endowed with great powers oflove. A simple example of this paradox is to be seen in the description of the parting between the Pickwickians and the Dingley Dell party after the festivities at Rochester: As the Pickwiclcians turned round to take a last glimpse ofit [the carriage], the setting sun cast a rich glow on the faces of their entertainers, and fell upon the form of the fat boy.

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