An Analysis of Lamb’s Dream Children
Charles Lamb as a Romanticist
Charles Lamb was a famous English prose-writer and the best representative of the new form of English literature early in the nineteenth century. He did not adhere to the old rules and classic models but made the informal essay a pliable vehicle for expressing the writer’s own personality, thus bringing into English literature the personal or familiar essay. The style of Lamb is gentle, old-fashioned and irresistibly attractive, for which there is no better illustration than Dream Children: A Reverie. From the analysis of this essay we can find Lamb’s characteristic way of expression. Dream Children records the pathetic joys in the author’s unfortunate domestic life. We can see in this essay, primarily, a supreme expression of the increasing loneliness of his life. He constructed all that preliminary tableau of paternal pleasure in order to bring home to us in the most poignant way his feeling of the solitude of his existence, his sense of all that he had missed and lost in the world. The key meaning of the story shows the beauty that resides in sadness. There are remarkable writing techniques to achieve such an effect. Through the stylistic approach to Dream Children, we can see that Charles Lamb is a romanticist, seeking a free expression of his own personality and weaving romance into daily life. Without a trace of vanity of self-assertion, Lamb begins with himself, with some purely personal mood or experience, and from this he leads the reader to see life and literature as he saw it. It is this wonderful combination of personal and universal interests, together with Lamb’s rare old style, which make the essay remarkable.
1 Lexical Feature
1. Old-fashioned but elegant diction
Lamb prefers to use archaic words in order to reach a certain distance between the author’s real life and his whimsies, such as: (1) and how in her youth she was esteemed the best dancer (esteemed here means admired, respected) (2) here Alice's little right foot played an involuntary movement, till, upon my looking grave, it desisted （desisted here means stopped doing） (3) and how the nectarines and peaches hung upon the walls, without my ever offering to pluck them (pluck, also a poetic word, here means pick) (4) he had meditated dividing with her, and both seemed willing to relinquish them for the present as irrelevant (meditated here means thought, and relinquish means give up)
2. Repetition of the word here
When regarding for beautiful things and fine actions, Lamb does not forget to show to the readers the pictures of the children--real children until the moment when they fade away. He repeats the word here altogether eight times, to portray the children’s response. For example: (5) Here Alice put out one of her dear mother's looks
(6) Here John smiled, as much as to say, "that would be foolish indeed." With this repeating word, we can see these children almost as clearly and as tenderly as Lamb saw them. If we take the essay’s main purpose into account, we will find the more real they seem, the more touching is the revelation of the fact that they do not exist, and never have existed.
2 Sentence Feature
2.1 Loose structure and post-modification
Generally speaking, the tone of this essay is relaxed and comfortable, which can be attributed to Lamb’s use of loose structure and post-modification. Let’s study the sentence below: (7) Children love to listen to stories about their elders, when they were children; to stretch their imagination to the conception of a traditionary great-uncle, or grandame, whom they never saw. If applied to daily communication, the former part of this sentence seems tediously long. However, here it gives us a sense of comfort and enjoyment, for in the essay it causes our sympathy with the author of the fondness of innocent children. Therefore, we...
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