22 votes
Accepted

Why does Marley in A Christmas Carol claim that Scrooge will be visited across three nights?

The visitations do happen over the course of three days as seen by that Scrooge goes to bed at past two in the morning, the first two visitations have Scrooge awakening shortly after midnight, and ...
Sean Duggan's user avatar
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20 votes
Accepted

What is meant by "without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley" in A Christmas Carol?

I think that by this point in the story, Scrooge can sense himself starting to reform. In this scene he is saying that had he devoted more time to paying attention to little, pleasant things like Fran'...
tbrookside's user avatar
17 votes
Accepted

Dickens invented the scary clown?

The claim that ‘Dickens invented the scary clown’ seems to be rooted in the work of Andrew McConnel Scott, Professor of English at the University of Buffalo, through his paper ‘Clowns on the Verge of ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19k
16 votes
Accepted

What does "Some people do the same by their religion" mean?

The phrase "do the same" refers to what Mrs. Joe is doing with her cleanliness: making it more uncomfortable, although it should be theoretically better, than dirt. This is the same as how &...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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15 votes
Accepted

What does "...they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets..." mean?

Dickens was inspired to write this scene by a visit to St James’ Church in Cooling, Kent, where he saw these stone sarcophagi in the graveyard: (Photo by Hywel Williams, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.) ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
15 votes

What is meant by "without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley" in A Christmas Carol?

I think the play on words is a bit simpler than that. "Cultivate" is a word primarily used for gardening or farming, requiring a spade to turn the soil. Thus, Dickens is making a play on ...
Sean Duggan's user avatar
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13 votes
Accepted

Why does Mr Merdle ask for a penknife with a darker handle in "Little Dorrit"?

A man may have a fancy as to the particulars of how he takes his own life, but here are a couple of things which may have informed his choice. He may have found the shimmering, iridescent paleness of ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19k
13 votes

What does the term "one heat down" in Dickens's "Little Dorrit" mean?

Per World Wide Words, heat once had a meaning of a single burst of intense physical activity of any sort, often in the phrase at a heat, at one go, in one continuous operation (World Wide Words ...
KRyan's user avatar
  • 453
12 votes

Why did Dickens write A Christmas Carol

Dickens had a variety of motivations in writing A Christmas Carol. Financial. Dickens earned a living as an author, and sales of his previous novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, were slowing. As a result, his ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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12 votes
Accepted

What does, "‘Much of that!’ said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. ‘I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!'" mean?

The word “flat” is used here in the sense flat n. C.5.b. A tract of low-lying marshy land; a swamp. Oxford English Dictionary. If you weren’t familiar with this sense of the word, you might guess it ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

Why does Mr. Pumblechook call Mrs. Joe "mum"?

“Mum” is a dialect spelling of “ma’am”, a shortened form of “madam” that was “formerly the ordinary respectful form of address to a woman” (OED). Here are a couple of examples, in both cases a servant ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
11 votes

Why does the clerk go down the slide twenty times in "A Christmas Carol"?

This is the kind of slide that kids make by sliding on an icy pavement until it is smooth and slick. A smooth surface, esp. of ice, for sliding on, or formed by being slid on; a slippery place. OED ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19k
10 votes
Accepted

Are Nicholas's sentiments on playwrights those of his creator?

In the book Charles Dickens in Context, by Sally Ledger and Holly Furneaux, quoting from Google Books: [Survival] for both playwright and playhouse required the rapid production of new scripts. ...
muru's user avatar
  • 6,930
10 votes
Accepted

What did Charles Dickens say about genius and pain?

The quotation Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains is proverbial and dates to the late 19th century, more or less around Dickens's time. However, nothing like it is found in any of his ...
verbose's user avatar
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9 votes
Accepted

Use of 'Genius' in Nicholas Nickleby?

He appears to be using it in a sarcastic manner. He is saying that they are so stupid, that he'll call them geniuses. It's like when someone says: "Washington DC is the capital of the United States?" ...
Mithical's user avatar
  • 24.1k
9 votes

Do native speakers face difficulty understanding Charles Dickens?

There will be things which many modern readers may not understand without going and looking it up, for example: Dialects: Dickens frequently has characters use class or regional dialects, with their ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19k
9 votes
Accepted

Why does Wemmick bring a fishing-rod on his "walk" with Pip?

To disguise the point of the expedition. Wemmick does not want anybody to know the real reason for the walk. By carrying a fishing-rod, he intends to keep anyone from even suspecting that he is on his ...
verbose's user avatar
  • 27.6k
8 votes

What does "raw" mean in this context from Great Expectations?

In the context of this sentence, "raw" refers to the weather. The following definition from Wiktionary applies here: Unpleasantly cold or damp. So Pip is saying that the weather that ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
  • 44.6k
8 votes
Accepted

In Great Expectations, why were thieves happy when Mr. Jaggers spoke?

"dread" - being frightened that something worrying would happen "rapture" - ecstasy - but can also mean "a state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion" From my ...
Juye C's user avatar
  • 151
8 votes
Accepted

What does, "The period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing..." mean?

A fuller quotation sets the context better: At that time jails were much neglected, and the period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing—and which is always its heaviest and ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19k
7 votes
Accepted

What exactly does Dickens mean to say here?

A Bill of Exchange is a financial instrument which promised to pay money after a fixed period, was signed by the person drawing the instrument up and the 'acceptor', who was the person responsible ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19k
7 votes
Accepted

What does "a sort of Hercules in strength and weakness" mean?

“A sort of Hercules in strength” is easy. The mythical Hercules was renowned for his strength, for example in the eleventh labour where (in one version) he holds up the sky, in place of Atlas, while ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
7 votes
Accepted

What does "much worse fed and lodged and treated altogether than" mean in chapter 12 from Dickens's Little Dorrit?

Little Dorrit is set in early Victorian England, roughly twenty years after the New Poor Law or Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. The act was intended to reduce the cost of relief (aid) given to the ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
  • 44.6k
7 votes

Who is saying "what was a man to do?" from the following passage in "Little Dorrit"?

The passage is an example of free indirect speech. The narrator renders Mr Plornish's speech without quotation marks but he does not use indirect speech either. Using direct speech, the passage may ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
  • 44.6k
7 votes

Are the two death masks Jack Dawkins and Fagin?

Each of Charles Dickens’ novels stands alone: they do not form a series or shared “universe”. So we should not expect to find references or allusions from one of his novels to the others. The equation ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
7 votes
Accepted

What is this children's book referenced in Little Dorrit?

It's possibly The Christian's Complete Family Bible (1807), which depicts Cain standing beside a dead Abel, and in the background there's both the devil aflame and a sunbeam through the clouds: While ...
Laurel's user avatar
  • 1,914
7 votes

What does "well may" mean in "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens?

Dickens is saying that the unpleasant appearance of the Court of Chancery is understandable, since it mirrors (or serves as a physical emblem of) the way the court functions. The Oxford English ...
verbose's user avatar
  • 27.6k
6 votes

What did Charles Dickens say about genius and pain?

Fred R. Shapiro's The Yale Book of Quotations attributes "Genius . . . an infinite capacity for taking pains" to "Jane Ellice Hopkins, English reformer, 1836–1904" in Work Amongst Working Men ch. 4 (...
user14111's user avatar
  • 3,042
6 votes

In Great Expectations, who is the man at the pub in Chapter Ten?

Is there any evidence in the book (or comments by Dickens) that points to who this man is? Aside from the fact which B.W. pointed out in the text you quoted I knew that he knew my convict the text ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19k
6 votes
Accepted

Does "Great Expectations" refer to the sport of cricket, in the scene of Joe meeting Pip in London?

Yes, it refers to cricket, with the wicket-keeper being the fielder behind the wicket, who has dedicated equipment and is frequently called on to catch the ball. The catcher in baseball is similar. It'...
Adam Burke's user avatar
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