The following three paragraphs open the chapter in Pickwick entitled "A Pleasant Day, with an unpleasant Termination," which tells of the autumn hunting party that ends with the leader of the Pickwickians rescued from the local dog pound. Each of the three paragraphs has a different style and tone. Why?
THE birds, who, happily for their own peace of mind and personal comfort, were in blissful ignorance of the preparations which had been making to astonish them, on the first of September, hailed it no doubt, as one of the pleasantest mornings they had seen that season. Many a young partridge who strutted complacently among the stubble, with all the finicking coxcombry of youth, and many an older one who watched his levity out of his little round eye, with the contemptuous air of a bird of wisdom and experience, alike unconscious of their approaching doom, basked in the fresh morning air with lively and blithesome feelings, and a few hours afterwards were laid low upon the earth. But we grow affecting: let us proceed.
In plain common-place matter-of-fact, then, it was a fine morning — so fine that you would scarcely have believed that the few months of an English summer had yet flown by. Hedges, fields, and trees, hill and moorland, presented to the eye their ever-varying shades of deep rich green; scarce a leaf had fallen, scarce a sprinkle of yellow mingled with the hues of summer warned you that autumn had begun. The sky was cloudless, the sun shone out bright and warm; the songs of birds, and hum of myriads of summer insects, filled the air; and the cottage gardens, crowded with flowers of every rich and beautiful tint, sparkled, in the heavy dew, like beds of glittering jewels. Everything bore the stamp of summer, and none of its beautiful colours had yet faded from the dye.
Such was the morning, when an open carriage, in which were three Pickwickians, (Mr. Snodgrass having preferred to remain at home,) Mr. Wardle, and Mr. Trundle, with Sam Weller on the box beside the driver, pulled up by a gate at the road-side, before which stood a tall, raw-boned gamekeeper, and a half-booted, leather-leggined boy: each bearing a bag of capacious dimensions, and accompanied by a brace of pointers. [Ch. 19, p. 245]
1. What is the difference between the style and effect of the first and second paragraphs? Why does Dickens (or Dickens's narrator) shift from the first to the second, and does the second simply repeat the information in the second or offer something new?
2. Which of the paragraphs most fulfills the requirements of realism as a descriptive style?
3. One of the problems for an author of using long passages of description — whether of external settings or of characters — is that it interrupts the story-telling. How does Dickens get back to the story?
Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Intro. by Bernard Darwin. "The Oxford Illustrated Dickens." London: Oxford UP, 1949.
Last modified 9 February 2003