Saturday, July 10, 2010

Also in Oliver Twist

In addition to this, there are these two wonderful sentences in Chapter XLIII of Oliver Twist:

He found himself jostled among a crowd of people, chiefly women, who were huddled together in a dirty frowsy room, at the upper end of which was a raised platform railed off from the rest, with a dock for the prisoners on the left hand against the wall, a box for the witnesses in the middle, and a desk for the magistrates on the right; the awful locality last named, being screened off by a partition which concealed the bench from the common gaze, and left the vulgar to imagine (if they could) the full majesty of justice.

I don't know why I put Dickens and Faulkner on the same shelf in my head, but I do. Maybe it's just that they both use a similar color palette for London and The South (The colors favored by Andrew Wyeth who painted neither.) I hope you are reading the two sentences at a speaking pace because that is the only way to taste them, and it is why no one today writes in this style. Readers sadly can't be bothered to slow down.

The room smelt close and unwholesome; the walls were dirt-discoloured; and the ceiling blackened. There was an old smoky bust over the mantel-shelf, and a dusty clock above the dock--the only thing present, that seemed to go on as it ought; for depravity, or poverty, or an habitual acquaintance with both, had left a taint on all the animate matter, hardly less unpleasant than the thick greasy scum on every inaminate object that frowned upon it.

1 comment:

Dr. Russ said...

Be sure to check out Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure for slow down reading as well. If you care for the human situation, it is a must read.