Dickens's likes to create little rooms with his sentences, rooms that are so inviting and interesting that you feel that if you don’t go inside and explore right away, you will be missing out on something big. And when you do go inside and look around for a while, you then suddenly realize that you are TWENTY MILES AWAY from where you should be. You’ve wandered too far, and you have to somehow find your way back to your car. And it’s getting dark. And the gas station is closed.
What do we mean by all this? We mean simply that Dickens loves detail, and he loves spinning elegant language, and sometimes those two loves meet to create new worlds within the belly of his overarching story. Stories within stories are found everywhere in Great Expectations. Take a look at the excerpt below:
The Queen of Denmark, a very buxom lady, though no doubt historically brazen, was considered by the public to have too much brass about her; her chin being attached to her diadem by a broad band of that metal (as if she had a gorgeous toothache), her waist being encircled by another, and each of her arms by another, so that she was openly mentioned as "the kettledrum."(2.31.2)
That’s one WHOLE sentence, friends. Did you see the punctuation that lives in there? And how amazing is the phrase, "gorgeous toothache"? We say that the tone is oyster-y, because reading a Dickensian novel is like wading through miles of language and then suddenly stumbling upon a pearl: a piece of juicy gossip, a beautiful speech, a revelation of truth. And the fact that you waded through that language and hiked through the foliage of words makes your discovery all the sweeter and more profound. We say that the tone is peanut-packed because sometimes it feels like Dickens dropped some packing peanuts into his language to pad the juicy parts and to protect the novel’s architecture.