Bleak House

The Attraction of Repulsion in Bleak House and Hard Times College

As the titles Bleak House and Hard Times suggest, there is an abundance in both of imagery, metaphor, and overarching plot that is unpleasant, rendered in such relishing detail as to suggest that Charles Dickens had, in the words of John Forster, ‘a profound attraction to repulsion.’ There are, of course, stylistic elements at play, for Forster also noted ‘it was Dickens’s virtue to have a most abundant vocabulary, coupled with a large and restless imagination, and the result of that combination was to gush’ (13), implying that it was the opportunity to be descriptive that delighted Dickens, regardless of whether the subject was pleasant or repulsive. There is also Dickens’s self-perceived role as entertainer to consider, as well as his audience: ‘Dickens understood that the illiterate and semi-literate who spent long hours isolated in monotonous factory labor wanted to escape in an imaginary communal experience’ (John, 144). This suggests that Dickens delved into the grotesque to shock and awe and occasionally horrify his audience, in other words to boost the escapist potential within his stories. In Bleak House, Mrs. Rouncewell tells a ghost story, Krook and Tulkinghorn discover Nemo’s corpse, and Krook spontaneously...

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