Dickens comedy in The Pickwick Papers
The Pickwick Papers has been one of the most read and most popular novels of all time since its publishing in 1836. This novel exalts the joys one can live as Dickens portrays the pleasures of travel, food and drink, companionship between men, benevolence, the joys of youth and romance. While the novel primarily deals with issues of a serious nature, they are disguised and portrayed to the readers in the guise of comedy. Dickens manages to blend these serious issues with humour by contrasting them with some unpleasant aspects of reality. Dickens plays good standard luxurious food and drink off against the bog standard victuals and grubby wine in that is seen in prison. Male friendships are ignited by overbearing and predatory wives and widows. By doing this, Dickens manages to prove to the readers just how important these realities. By mixing harsh realities and comedy together, we are able to view life on a much larger scale and the reader comes to realise the importance of the everyday ordinary as it is embodied in Dickens’ character Mr Pickwick. Signs of change began emerging in not only Dickens’ private life, but also in his writing where new styles and techniques were being introduced to us. The comic plot widens slowly throughout the novel through a slightly predictable pattern of adventures (or misadventures) which tend to repeat themselves. The comical personalities of the characters create an even more humorous scene to the adventures in which they are caught up in. Each of the characters has a different personality which portrays them as the comic-type. Mr Pickwick is kind-hearted, yet very gullible. Tracy Tupman is overweight and middle-aged however sees himself as quite the ladies’ man. Nathaniel Winkle is an incompetent sports man, and Augustus Snodgrass is a talentless poet, unable to write any lines to a verse. The first new acquaintance we meet is Sam Weller where he is working at the inn. Sam’s character is that of a ‘’chirpy cockney’’ and greatly boosts the novel’s circulation as he uses phrases such as ‘’sorry to keep you a-waitin’ sir,’’ (Chapter 10, Pickwick Papers). Dickens wants the reader to be able to experience the accent in order to achieve the comical side. Alfred Jingle is seen later again in the fleet prison and again is a character crafted out of language. It is not so much his outrageous stories/lies that bring the humour element to the novel, but the unusual way in which he speaks. It is compressed, cutting, and breathless. In chapter 2 of the novel Jingle says: ‘’Ah! you should keep dogs—fine animals—sagacious creatures—dog of my own once—pointer—surprising instinct—out shooting one day—entering inclosure—whistled—dog stopped—whistled again—Ponto—no go; stock still—called him—Ponto, Ponto—wouldn't move—dog transfixed—staring at a board—looked up, saw an inscription—"Gamekeeper has orders to shoot all dogs found in this inclosure"—wouldn't pass it—wonderful dog—valuable dog that—very.’’ Dickens has given Jingle an idiosyncratic speech pattern and we see how he uses language and speech in a comic form. He uses it as a material and not a transparent medium onto the world. In fact, the majority of the humour in the novel actually comes from the language of these characters and not the incidents that they are stuck in themselves. Sometimes the reader is left having to try make sense of these fragmented and broken lines however for Dickens, this form of parataxis probably came to him with ease and he once learnt shorthand as a legal and a parliamentary reporter. While the characters themselves bring a comical aspect to the novel, the situations that they get themselves into are also very humouring to the reader. As stated previously in this essay, Dickens is dealing with the harsh realities of these characters and is searching for a balance or even an imbalance between humour and harshness, tragedy and comedy, and gloom and mirth. Comedy lays...
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