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Hard Times

Hard Times

by Charles Dickens

Analysis: Writing Style

Finger in the Face; Sensationalist; Wordy

In most of his novels, Dickens uses a few repeated tricks and touches. Because his writing is so easily identifiable, he is the kind of writer that's called a "stylist" – meaning that the style of his prose is really important to him and that he enjoys playing with language in a way many otherwise very talented writers do not.

One of aspect of his signature style is the building up of description through repeating a word or a phrase for emphasis. For instance, here is our first birds-eye view of Coketown, from Book 1, Chapter 5:

It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next. (1.5.2)

There is a lot more of this repetition throughout the whole paragraph, but even in this one sentence there are phrases that are used over and over again: "like one another" (3 times), "same" (5 times). Not only are the words repeated, but the sentence is also made to have a rhythm, almost as if it is no longer prose but actually poetry. When reading, you actually fall into the kind of droning, every-day-like-the-next lull that the people of Coketown are living. Can you find another instance of a description where a phrase or word are repeated several times? What is the effect of that repetition in a different context?

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