Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Writing Style

By Charles Dickens

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Writing Style

Wordy and Dense

Of all Dickens' novels, Our Mutual Friend is one of the toughest to read. And no, it's not just because it's so long, but also because Dickens' writing style is really dense and difficult to follow. Just check out this line from early in the book:

Whosoever had gone out of Fleet Street into the Temple at the date of this history, and had wandered disconsolate about the Temple until he stumbled on a dismal churchyard, and had looked up at the dismal windows commanding that churchyard until at the most dismal window of them all he saw a dismal boy, would in him have beheld, at one grand comprehensive swoop of the eye, the managing clerk, junior clerk, common-law clerk, conveyancing clerk, of Mr. Mortimer Lightwood, erewhile called in the newspapers eminent solicitor. (3.8.1)

Are you serious, Dickens? All this line tells us is that there's a young law clerk looking sad as he stares out a window. Dang.

But all this wordiness serves a purpose for Dickens, because he's constantly making fun of the way that people in London think way too highly of their own intelligence. It's like he's saying here, "Listen, your life ain't as grand and epic as you think it is, Londoners." The side effect of this mockery, though, is language that can be pretty tough to read.

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