The Dynamics of Description

  • Susan R. Horton


Anyone who has ever seen David Lean’s wonderful film of Oliver Twist, with its warrens and winding narrow streets through which urchins run like rats in the dark, has to know that no clear and simple Christian rhetoric can dispel that image of a confused and confusing world. There is a rhetoric of description, as critics from Charles Lamb, who talked about the ‘dumb rhetoric of the scenery’, to Robert Garis, who, describing Mrs Jellyby’s house in Bleak House, concluded that ‘every detail is a judgement’ understood.2 Even when we encounter what might appear to be simple, straightforward description of person or place, because of Dickens’s style of reportage, we can be fairly sure that it will begin to shade off immediately into something else: rhetorical admonition to social action or consciousness, or an invitation to escape into a world of fantasy.


Bread Slice Contrived Gesture Repeated Phrase Oliver Twist Animistic Imagination 
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The Dynamics of Description

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Copyright information

© Susan R. Horton 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan R. Horton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsUSA

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