Perhaps the most distinctive qualities of Carlyle's writing are his use of memorably bizarre or grotesque images and inventive metaphors to introduce and support his arguments. The following passage is a strong example of this characterstic imagery as well as the unmistakable speech-like quality of his prose. In this passage, Carlyle satirically assesses the state of a world in which honor is no longer apportioned according to merit.
A world no longer habitable for quiet persons; a world which in these sad days is bursting into street barricades, and pretty rapidly turning out its 'Honoured Men,' as intrusive dogs are turned out, with a kettle tied to their tail. To Kings, Kaisers, Spiritual Papas and Holy Fathers, there is a universal 'Apage! Depart thou; go thou to the — Father of thee!' in a huge world-voice of mob-musketry and sooty execration, uglier than any ever heard before.
Why does Carlyle use the image of a dog with a kettle tied to its tail to describe society's treatment of its esteemed men?
The images of stray dogs, soot, street barricades and "mob-musketry" all belong to a language of the industrialized city. How does the use of this language affect the way a reader might view Carlyle's argument?
Often at the climax of a passage Carlyle will make use of invented or hyphenated words like "world-voice" and "mob-musketry." What effect does this have on the rhythm of his prose and the strength of his argument?
Throughout the essay, Carlyle invent quotations like the "Apage" that he attributes to the reader or to the general public. Are these as effective in writing as they might be in speech?
Last modified 25 September 2003