Out of the Fog Came Life: A Stylistic Analysis of Dickens’s Bleak House

By Trudy A. Martinez

The imagery in Bleak House reveals a revelation of possibilities that petitions both a pessimistic and an optimistic existence. The beginning is the end. The end is the beginning of judgment. The words paint a picture, a warning of a possible end, giving a pessimistic view of that city coming into judgment. The four elements: earth, water, fire, and air that frame the beginning of the earth in the Holy Bible also frame the desolate beginning of Bleak House with its possible end. The middle links the beginning and the end through the characters representative of both good and evil who guide the societal participants at all levels of existence to their destination in life or death. In the end, the ending is a new beginning, mending a separation between man and woman, joining them in both love and marriage; this scene paints an optimistic view of a promise land free from destructive imagery.

Dickens inaugurates his imagery by using a verb style hypotaxis where the ranking is done for us while the all-knowing narrator informs the reader of any judgment lest we be guilty of judging. His play on words in the hypotaxis style creates an image of the beginning of the end with all of the four elements at work. For instance, the weather issues forth the mud, symbolizing corruption, where the “foot passengers . . . slipping and sliding” in and out of their faith add “new deposits” of “crust” to the earth. The retirement of the water (a symbol of the pure at heart ascending to Heaven) is seen “hanging in the misty clouds” protected from the fog that weaves in and out, spreading corruption everywhere at all levels of society and to all its classes, while at the same time, destroying the natural elements. The pure at heart are protected from the destruction and blindness created because they are housed within the structure of a prepositional phrase “as if they were up in a balloon.” Hovering above and “Peeping” down upon a pestilence in progress (Dickens 49). The fire issues forth its aftermath: the “smoke making a soft black drizzle with flakes of “soot” raining on and “mourning . . . for the death of the sun” (Dickens 49). The air, suffering from the effects of the death of the sun, produces a “haggard and unwilling look,” forming a gaseous appearance that looms “through the fog in divers places (Dickens 49)” toward those who are deserving of God’s judgment.

Period writers arm themselves with His judgment, prophesying the coming of the bridegroom who, ridding the earth of the “Megalosarus,” a dragon simulating the devil, brings about the death of the elements. Why else would “the two speechless gazers” after “justice was done” bend “themselves down to the earth, as if in prayer” in Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles? Were they not made aware of His presence? Was it just a coincidence that Adam’s occupation was a carpenter capable of winning over the priestess Dinah presented as if she was pure and innocence in Adam Bede or was it merely that the author, George Eliot’s vision blurred? I think not! After all, the all-knowing narrator allows her to confess in the novel, hinting of her defect and her judgment before God:

“The mirror is doubtless defective: the outlines will sometimes be disturbed, the reflection faint or confused; but I feel as much bound to tell you as precisely as I can what that refection is, as if I were in the witness-box, narrating my experience on oath (174).”

Others in the same period present and depict London in a similar light, exposing situations deserving of God’s judgment, while at the same time, teaching the eye to hear as if fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah (Matthew 13:13-17) while focusing on the position of woman in society. For example, Blake’s central concern was the Infants cry, pointing to the sin of man as the reason for the Harlot’s curse we hear while he hears the Harlots (plural) curse (swear) because of the tear (separation) of the Infants tear from their rightful place. Blake teaches his reader to hear with their eyes through the transparent chiasmas he creates. Similarly, one must question whether the Harlot’s curse put upon Lady Deadlock in Bleak House is actually man’s curse for allowing and bringing about her separation from her child, Esther.

Mrs. Rouncewell announces that the sound of the Ghost’s Walk must be heard when she tells a child, “I am not sure it is dark enough yet, but listen! Can you hear the sound upon the terrace, through the music, and the beat, and everything? This sound she says, “You cannot shut it out” (Dickens 141). And then again one might ask how was the blind man in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary able to see Emma’s sin and rebuke her for it when he could only hear? Could it be he is a messenger sending forth a rebuke to all of us so that we will become aware of the writing on the wall and hear with our eyes the same beat and music being played for us by God Almighty from the break of His day? Although each instance centers in on a different aspect of woman’s existence, all communicate a need for change.

Bleak House calls to mind the sin of Eve and the need for the removal of false images before the sight of God. For instance, Esther’s aunt, her godmother, assumes the role of a god, issuing forth judgment when she says, “Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers” (Dickens 65). Further evidence of her role as a god is given through her paralleling herself to Christ: “I have forgiven her,” she said, “I, the sufferer” (Dickens 65). But only God in Heaven can truly forgive and Christ already paid with his life by suffering for our sins. Why then is Esther’s aunt taking on such a role? Why is Esther made to suffer at the hands of another and a woman at that?

In essence, Esther asks these questions herself when she reads the book of St. John to her aunt and exclaims, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her! (Dickens 66)” At this point, an abrupt switch from the verb style Esther reads from the Holy Bible to the noun style hypotaxis where the aunt’s role is cast within a different structure. Esther is “stopped by her godmother’s rising, putting her hand to her head, and crying out in an awful voice, from quite another part of the book . . . “ (Dickens 67). Here again, there is an abrupt change; this time to a verb style as she attempts to assume a different role, deceiving the child and freeing herself from her confinement. Unfortunately, the role she attempts to assume is that of a false god, using God’s words as her own, warning Esther of destruction: ‘ “Watch ye therefore! Lest . . . he find you sleeping” ‘(Dickens 67), and forgetting that God is an angry God and a jealous God; the aunt makes the mistake of overly extending her influence, and she unthinkingly spouts out: “And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!” Consequently, God struck her down. He Judged her instantly.

At once, the verb style returns to a noun style when the aunt is spoken of by the naïve narrative of Esther, but the noun style works against its subject: Esther’s emotional plea to her aunt, the anaphora: I + kissed, [I] + thanked, and [I] + prayed, [I] + asked, [I] + [asked], [I] + entreated, failed because the aunt had over stepped her bounds by assuming the character of the antichrist and was, therefore, instantly judged.

Esther avoids an immediate judgment because she is still a child, investigating the choices available to her with the words of her aunt still ringing in her ears: “Pray daily that the sins of others be not visited upon your head, according to what is written” (Dickens 65). From this point, the novel becomes Esther’s bildungsroman as she moves from an unfavorable light toward a more favorable one. Just as Esther moves, the written word moves. For instance, noun style changes to a verb style, the hypotaxis style, where everything is determined for us, changes to a parataxis style where the choice is left up to us; and we are made able to link good to the bad as if administering a pill to cure its ills.

The change in Esther, just as the change in the written style of the words on the page, becomes apparent in Esther when she administers a pill to herself. Here, she stresses self-denial and a willingness to seek and discover the answers. The absence of prepositional phrases, the jailed structure that inhibits choice, highlights the change in the structure just as it highlights the change in Esther and favors her for her choice of thinking of others first:

“I don’t know how it is; I seem to be always writing about myself. I mean all the time to write about other people, and I try to think about myself as little as possible, and I am sure, when I find myself coming into the story again, I am really vexed and say, ‘Dear, dear, you tiresome little creature. I wish you wouldn’t!’ But it is all of no use (Dickens 163).”

It is of no use not speaking of Esther because speaking of Esther is the only way to reveal the methods and the formula for change and its reward or damnation. The others around her paint the picture of how things are going to be. For example, Mr. Skimpole is seen receiving his reward for his faith. The table was set for him: “There was honey on the table, and it led him into the discourses about the Bees. . . He protested against the overwhelming assumptions of bees.” The status the “busy bees” sold their souls for was given him by them. He stood firm and did not allow them to be a model. The station of the bees “was ridiculous:” a “position, to be smoked out of your fortune with brimstone” (Dickens 143).

Mr. Jarndyce guides Esther from the fire and smoke to discovery of the unknown and to her pleasure as if throwing water on her, baptizing her, and awakening her from a sleep. Esther tells us that the signs were “At first,” only “faintly discernible in the mists,” and acknowledges that “above them . . . later stars still glimmered” (Dickens 142). Is it just a coincidence that Esther is sent for and brought out of the mist “On the” very “day, after” her false image, the “poor good god mother, “the antichrist, “was buried,” and “the gentlemen in black with the white neckcloth reappeared,” announcing: “My name is Kenge . . . you may remember it, my child; Kenge and Carboy, Lincoln’s Inn?”(Dickens 67).

Does he not call to mind one holding the balances in his hand? He sure appears so on the page for Kenge first appears in the noun style and then abruptly switches to the verb style when he speaks. It stands to reason that just after Jarndyce announces “that Boythorn,” who was “the loudest boy in the world, and now the loudest man”, was coming down on a visit that he and his guests “observed the favorable omen” (Dickens 166). The opposite occurs on page 66 when the one that was, the god-MOTHER OF HARLOTS is struck down after trying to steal the thunder of the words of THE KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

We are told by Boythorn, “We have been misdirected” by “the most intolerable scoundrel on the face of the earth” (Dickens 166). Mr. Boythorn asks, “Is there anything for me from your men, Kenge and Carboy?” after he identifies Sir Leicester as Sir Lucifer and “calls attention to” the controversy of trespass., concerning “the green pathway” that Sir Leicester claims right away to but that is “now the property of Mr. Lawrence Boythorn”(Dickens 166-170). Did not he state: “No closing of my path, by any Deadlock!”

In contrast, Richard, thinking only of himself, “one of the most restless creatures in the world” takes a different route: He goes from what is considered a favorable light to an unfavorable one. Richard stresses self-love and a willingness to accept a different calling: “. . . The inclination of his childhood for the sea” (Dickens 163-164). Unlike Esther, Richard’s speech moves from a verb style to noun style. For example, Richard says: “So, cousin . . . We are never to get out of Chancery!” And the style abruptly changes to a noun style as he continues to say: “We have come by another way to our place of meeting yesterday, and – by the Great Seal, here’s the old lady again!”(Dickens 97) His choice was that of the easy way out as if he could change the direction the wind blows.

Finding that he has to work for his place, he places his confidence in the world whose outward appearance of luxury and fashion veils the inward corruption. The same becomes his religion and the High Lord Chancellor becomes his idol. This is evidenced when he confides in Esther:

“So I apprehend it’s pretty clear . . . that I shall have to work my own way. Never mind! Plenty of people have had to do that before now, and have done it. I only wish I had the command of a clipping privateer, to begin with, and could carry off the Chancellor and keep him on short allowance until he gave judgment in our cause. He’d find himself growing thin, if he didn’t look sharp! (Dickens 164)”

Hence, Richard becomes the kindling that fuels the wheels of corruption, thinking his dream of success lies just around the next turn as the wheels forever grind him further down toward his desolate destination of destruction and death. For example, his guide toward destruction, Mr. Vholes issues forth all manners of lies, eating upon Richard’s very flesh as if he were a cannibal (Dickens 605). And then again, he listened to the wrong voices when Mr. Vholes says, “A good deal is doing, sir. We have to put our shoulders to the wheel, Mr. Carstone, and the wheel is going round” (Dickens 607):

“I ought to imitate you, in fact, Mr. Vholes? Says Richard, sitting down again with an impatient laugh, and beating the Devil’s Tattoo with his boot on the patternless carpet” (Dickens 607).

In the beginning of the end, all the pestilence that was weaving through the streets in the fog was directed toward “the Lord High Chancellor” who having:

“A foggy glory round his head, softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains . . . outwardly directing his contemplation to the lantern in the roof, where he can see nothing but fog” (Dickens 50),

Let his house become desolate and unworthy of praise.

Quite the opposite of the Chancellor, Mr. John Jarndyce who converts his inheritance of a Bleak House left to him by his ancestors to a house of beauty by ridding the inside of its corruption of dirt with the application of a little water as if sent from God to bear witness of Truth.

Jarndyce compares the likeness of the former state of Bleak House to that city, burning in brimstone and the House built to fulfill the bridegroom’s coming, a promise, to the bride (earth). For what other reason would everyone at Bleak House view Mr. Boythorn’s coming as “the favorable omen,” confirming Jarndyce’s role as the Baptist when he says, “Now, will you come upstairs” and Boythorn answers:

“By my soul, Jarndyce, . . . if you had been married, I would have turned back at the garden-gate . . .I wouldn’t be guilty of the audacious insolence of keeping a lady [bride] of the house waiting all this time, for any earthly consideration. I would infinitely rather destroy myself – infinitely rather! (Dickens 166-168).”

The end is left for the reader to decide whether it is a new beginning or an actual judgment of earth. Jarndyce sums it up:

“I have never lost my old names, nor has he lost his; nor do I ever when he is with us, sit in any other place than in my old chair at his side. Dame Trot, Dame Durden, Little Woman! – all just the same as ever; and [Esther] answer[s], Yes, dear Guardian! Just the same . . . (Dickens 934).”

The hypotaxis style changes to a parataxis verb style on page 892, leaving the reader to interpret how to avoid judgment by linking back the participants in the society to see where each went wrong.

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How does DeTocqueville’s Democracy in America help you to understand and deal with the media in relationship to ideals, values, and myths? by Trudy A. Martinez

How does DE Tocqueville’s Democracy in America help you to understand and deal with the media in relationship to ideals, values, and myths?
By Trudy A. Martinez

Influence and the ramification of world history had a critical bearing upon the construction of the American order. Whereas, today the influence and the ramification of the media’s interpretation of international and foreign affairs has critical bearing on America’s future.

America is an archetype for the world; it was and is a speculative design to emancipate the world into Capitalism, a new world denomination. With the Soviet Union joining the ranks of Capitalism, for a while it appeared the American elite and Soviet elite would become the governing agents of the world. De Tocqueville speaks as if he is living in the twentieth century when he says in his book, Democracy in America,

“There are at the present time two great nations in the world which started from different points, but seem to tend towards the same end. I allude to Russians and Americans . . . They suddenly place themselves in the front rank among the nations . . . these alone are proceeding with ease and celerity along a path to which no limit can be perceived . . . each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of . . . the globe”(142).

The media had a field day with the Russians conversion into Capitalism. The propaganda of consumerism sways socialism into materialism. De Tocqueville appears to have known back in the eighteenth hundreds that America will come to be a dominate nation because he implies,

“There is less difference at the present day between the Europeans and their descendants in the New World . . . this tendency to [assimilate] brings foreign nations closer and closer to each other . . . “(De Tocqueville 142).

When Russia begins their industrial revolution, she mimics the history of America; Russia put a similar numbing seize upon the common Russian people by confining the common people’s freedom and striking unconstitutional authority over them through the execution of behaviorism.

“As social conditions become more equal, the number of persons increases who, although they are neither rich nor powerful enough to exercise any great influence over their fellows, have nevertheless acquired or retained sufficient education and fortune to satisfy their own wants. They own nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands” (De Tocqueville).

Christianity now openly appears in Russia. Is this the Russian man’s own urge to recapture paradise lost? Or is this merely the media’s communique for justification for Russian people’s persecution by sovereignty clique which is strongly colored by the media’s propaganda towards economic gain? In Russia, the myth, “The Russian Dream” is an external component of “hope”, whereas in America, “the American Dream” is internal “hope”. The difference may be seen in the mannerisms of the people. Russian’s have been on the brink of revolution while Americans accept their fate of oppression while remaining optimistic because the magic ingredient, “hope”, is programmed into the brain at a very early age. In this way America prevents revolution. The question is did Russia wait too long to join the ranks of the Americans? Is it still possible for Russia to pull the blind fold over the eyes of the Russian people without a revolution? Only time will tell. Will history repeat itself in the fashion of Anatole France or America?

The Founding Fathers of America set-up three branches of government: the legislative, executive, and judicial branch. The objective is to connect, but yet segregate the distinguish segments of the government for the purpose of providing checks and balances within the system that will protect the government from despotism (dictatorship). “Yellow Journalism” facilitates the influencing of people in the efforts of sanctioning the Constitution through the publishing of The Federalist Papers, (an interpretation of the Constitution), adhered by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay. Federalist envision a powerful central government with individual state governments all syndicated together in a “firm union” (No. 9) revolving around the main force, the federal government. With this theme, the greatest amount of “liberty” will be afforded the individual states while strengthening the union to protect the union from internal and external fractions.

“The inference to which we are brought, is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed; and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects” (Madison #10). There are two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinion, the same passions, and the same interest” (Madison #10).

In other words, if we are to remove the causes of faction, we will destroy the liberty that “is essential to political life” (Madison #10). “Liberty” is to remain to preserve political life. Therefore, the effects of faction require controls through “sameness” (the concept of a partnership, in love, in marriage, in all endeavors), thereby, stifling individuality of the masses and effectively changing the value of man from a sharing nature to a selfish nature, making us all “as good citizens those who have no sympathy for any but themselves (De Tocqueville 194)” in order to form an equality basis.

In religious terms equality means “oneness”; i. e., we are all equally individual in the eyes of God, whereas in a capitalistic industrial society, equality has come to mean “sameness”. Thus, (in most cases) the individual is stifled; he is kept from realizing full knowledge or a true (creative) individuality. This is due to the controlling of the effects of faction within the society.

To effectively control a notion of sameness “the law increased the strength of . . . authorities (De Tocqueville 112)” while at the same time “it enfeebled more and more those which were naturally weak . . . the body is . . . free . . . the soul. . . is enslaved” (De Tocqueville 112). When a man’s soul is enslaved, reality escapes him; he is no longer free–liberty becomes a fantasy. “Liberty of opinion” comes to be taboo. This taboo of opinion may be seen through the lack of literary genius in America (when an intellectual emanates to show his/her genius in the literary field, he/she is quailed through tyranny of the majority) (De Tocqueville 114 – 119). “Sameness” is achieved through the ideology of Locke with “a passive affect, man is driven, the object of motivations of which he himself is not aware (Fromm 18). It is a concept whereby a few govern the masses, a system by which a sovereignty clique discontinues man’s conception of revolt through a myth, a fantasy with the help of the media, the Fourth Undeclared Branch of Government.

The arrangement of the American nation is contrived by a combination of perceptions: Locke’s ideology braced with a notion of “sameness” and a strict moral code with the execution of purism. The concept stresses religious freedom and the separation of the church and the state. But instead of separating the church from the state, the church is incorporated into the state delivering and individual through optimism into contention with an infinite quantity of objective forces (impersonal forces) joined together in harmony and charted to confuse, bewilder, and overwhelm common man and deliver him into submission of the greedy ambitions of the affluent.

“Men who live in democratic communities . . . seldom indulge in meditation . . . they . . . naturally entertain very little esteem for it . . . he risks less in making use of some false principles, then in spending his time in establishing all his principles, on the basis of truth” (De Tocqueville 165).

When you consider the happenings in Russia and read about the transition of socialism (communism) to capitalism, you find yourself wondering if there isn’t a conspiracy of the rich to control not only America but also the world.

“. . . The rich in democracies always stand in need of the poor; and that in democratic times, you attach a poor man to you more by your manner than by benefits conferred. The magnitude of such benefits, which set off the difference of condition, causes a secret irritation to those who reap advantages of them; but the charm of simplicity of manners is almost irresistible; affability carries men away and even want of polish is not always displeasing. This truth does not take root at once in the minds of the rich. . . that population does not ask them for sacrifice of their money, but of their pride” (De Tocqueville 197).

If America is not aware of America’s devious past, how can the governing few duplicate America’s history in a country on the other side of the world with such precision? How will they know the duplication must be precise to be efficient and to be effective? Why else is religious freedom now suddenly allowed in Russia?

“To minds thus predisposed, every new method which leads by a shorter road to wealth, every machine which spares labor, every instrument which diminishes the cost of production, every discovery which facilitates pleasure . . . seems to be the grandest effort of human intellect. It is chiefly from these motives that democratic people addicts itself to scientific pursuits . . .” (De Tocqueville 167).

As a result of man’s agony perplexed by the overwhelming impersonal forces, common man was and still is forced to conform or seek escape from his reality through the escape mechanisms. Common man ceases to be an individual with a free choice; the freedom guaranteed by the constitution eludes his grasp.

After the Civil War in America, major steps were taken to prevent a repeat of such a catastrophe. A mandatory school system is put in place to educate the masses. But doesn’t it make you wonder if educating the masses is the real reason? Or is the school system set-up to play games such as ‘blind man’s bluff” with the youth of America? Is history white washed? Are the masses controlled to prevent revolution? “Hope” appears to be the magic ingredient which guides the youth through behaviorism into a new way life with new values.

Is there “freedom of the press” in America? Or was and is “freedom of the press” the means of suppressing the masses? Does the press induce the public through the media (newspapers, magazines, television, and the movies) to satisfy the desires of the stronger faction? In the 1890′s as in the 1950′s, “yellow journalism” was a dominate force at work, feeding off the majority, oppressing the weak, with ideologies of Palmer and McCarthy. In 1948 the press is embarrassed. The press got caught wearing the Republican Hat when their papers hit the street announcing Truman’s defeat based on their opinion polls which were to sway the public to their way of thinking. When in actuality, the Democrats went to the polls (the only poll that counts) resulting in a triumph for Truman over Dewey.

“. . . The stronger faction could readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in the state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger”(Madison #51).

The words of De Tocqueville and our forefathers are still true today: the stronger factions control the minds of the masses through the incorporation of TVism into the daily life of millions of Americans. A couch potato became reality when America began growing its vegetation in the living room of the American family.

Nearly every American couch has at least one fat potato planted on it an average of 7.5 hours per day; their job is to watch the “booby-tube”. What to buy? Who to buy it from? Get the dope; get duped; violence, violence, and more violence.

It makes one wonder: is there a conspiracy to shorten the lives of as many Americans as possible to make way for the fresh cheap labor that’s coming to America in the Jungle of new factories, industries, and McDonald’s?

In Mojave, McDonald’s has a new crew, all foreign workers (fresh, cheap, labor); these workers may be working for less than minimum wage. I overheard a conversation between two managers discussing a labor wage contract below the rates of minimum wage laws. How can this be? America makes it possible with laws on the books that allow hiring below minimum wage when the employee is in a training status. Who is to say that a training status doesn’t mean an alien–aliens have to start somewhere learning to be good consumer–iced Americans. McDonald’s are justified aren’t they? After all the American youth are not capable of working: the American youth is not interested—French- fries–fried brains are more along their lines; they have taken up other occupations–materialistic in nature, the materialism of others. Bottle sucking is out; sniffing and intravenous feedings are in.

Meanwhile, the masses of new soon-to-be Americans are converted through the consumerism of advertisement and subliminal messages into materialism to be damned in a hell on earth as the “American Dream” requires props (status symbols) that announce your status with a flare.

The lawyers and judges provide the checks and balances that may keep us safe from tyranny: hence, they control democracy. The trouble is they may be duped too. Legislation has seen controls put upon the media in regards to commercials seen on TV; this action should result in alleviation of some of the control over the minds of the youth (a tendency to convert the youth to the idealism of consumerism by way of deceit seen on the screen). If we require seeking assistance in protecting the privileges guaranteed through the Constitution and the Amendments, the Supreme Court becomes the interpreter and protector of the rights of the people as it is implied in the federalist papers. But not many people ever bother to read the Constitution or the Amendments; the belief alone satisfies. The myth; the American Dream; the red, white, and blue; and the hope for a better tomorrow keep us at bay: separate, divide, and control. A Disneyland of fantasies without revolt, without revolution; the American public is “the object of motivations of which he is not aware” (Fromm 18).

One could say with Democracy in America Tyranny of the majority is born. A foreigner, a French man says it all when he looks through the looking-glass into the “fairy-tale” land of America and says,

“The error arose from seeing the interest of the nobles perpetually contending with those of the people, without considering the issue of the contest, which was really the important point. When a community . . . is equally divided between adverse principles,–it must either experience a revolution, or fall into anarchy . . . social superior to all others must always be placed somewhere . . . liberty is endangered when this power finds an obstacle which can retard its course, and give it time to moderate its own vehemence . . . Unlimited is in itself a bad and dangerous thing. Human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion. God alone can be omnipotent” (De Tocqueville 115).