Evaluating Dickens

Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.

This is a typical question for P1 Q4 Evaluate:

Untitled2

These are the skill descriptors you need to meet:

Untitledb.jpg

When answering this question look for:

  • narrative perspective
  • sensory language
  • powerful imagery
  • emotive language
  • techniques used for effect

I will look at each extract slightly differently, hopefully together you will see which details to annotate, then how to use them collectively to build a chohesive evaluative comment.  At the end I’ve listed other evaluative features to look for.

David Copperfield

It was a murky confusion—here and there blotted with a colour like the colour of the smoke from damp fuel—of flying clouds, tossed up into most remarkable heaps, suggesting greater heights in the clouds than there were depths below them to the bottom of the deepest hollows in the earth, through which the wild moon seemed to plunge headlong, as if, in a dread disturbance of the laws of nature, she had lost her way and were frightened. There had been a wind all day; and it was rising then, with an extraordinary great sound. In another hour it had much increased, and the sky was more overcast, and blew hard.

Techniques used: imagery, emotive language, personification, simile, extended metaphor

Possible choices: 

  • noun-confusion-suggests uncertainty
  • verb-blotted-suggests stain
  • tossed-verb-suggests throw,
  • ‘greater heights’ v ‘depths below’ v ‘deepest hollows’,
  • adjective-wild-suggests untamed,
  • verb-plunge-suggests dive/thrust
  • alliterative ‘dread disturbance’
  • adjective lost and frightened
  • ‘there had been’ past tense clause and semi-colon
  • rising‘ and ‘extraordinary’ adj meaning remarkable/incredible
  • great, overcast, blew hard

Evaluative comment: I agree with the student, Dickens has used a powerful extended metaphor to describe the incredible and exciting turbulent weather. Dicken’s has successfully used words such as ‘flying’, ‘tossed’, ‘wild’ and ‘plunge’ to personify the movement of the clouds appearing uncontrollable. This vivid description ensures a reader can visualise the weather as not only beautiful but also terrifying. It makes you feel as if you are underneath the darkness, feeling its power.

A Christmas Carol

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office “In the dog-days”; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Techniques & Possible choices (this extract is full of imagery and techniques):

  • tight-fisted
  • grindstone
  • “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”
  • Hard and sharp as flint
  • no steel struck out generous fire;
  • secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster.
  • froze his old features,
  • nipped his pointed nose,
  • shrivelled his cheek,
  • stiffened his gait;
  • made his eyes red, his thin lips blue – Red – evil, blue – cold makes him sound like a monster, unlikeable
  • shrewdly in his grating voice.
  • A frosty rime
  • wiry chin.
  • at Christmas.

Possible evaluative comments: Powerful verbs and modifiers build somebody, unpleasant, he’s presented as mean both with money and in spirit. The simile is successful because it compares him to a cold unfeeling rock- he is presented as a cold, mean and a private person suggesting he is never warm or generous. By using the simile to compare Scrooge to a stone, “flint” we understand that he is hard-hearted yet also sharp and quick-witted. When I read, I would link the image of a flint as a stone the sharpen knives giving him a menacing image. Sibilance is used throughout, “sharp”, “steel”, “secret” giving an almost snake-like image for me by repeating the ‘s’ sound. The vivid description makes the character appear secretive, rule 3, Oyster is a hard shell but soft in inside, all words convey a lonely and distant man separated from others by choice. Furthermore, Dickens has cleverly used another simile to compare him to “oyster” supporting his hard image and also presenting him as secretive and isolated. The reader may also sympathise with Scrooge as it suggests loneliness. Also, like an oyster is effective because it is suggesting that he may also have a special quality, yet to be revealed. I can imagine the cold weather and relate to the character, Dickens’ use of the long, complex sentence structure adds to the feeling that Scrooge is difficult and complicated. The description of Scrooge is highly effective as it is detailed and layered. On the surface, he is unpleasant and friendless. However, Dickens also foreshadows a more positive character to come and creates sympathy for me.

Bleak House

Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas, in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Techniques & Possible choices: 

  • Implacable
  • mud
  • as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth,
  • Megalosaurus
  • waddling like an elephantine lizard
  • Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots
  • soft black drizzle
  • flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes
  • gone into mourning,
  • for the death of the sun.
  • Dogs, Horses,
  • Foot passengers,
  • jostling one another’s umbrellas,
  • infection of ill temper,
  • losing their foot-hold
  • tens of thousands
  • slipping and sliding
  • broke
  • the crust upon crust of mud,
  • sticking
  • tenaciously

Evaluative language: reflects, observes, reveals, implies, exposes, evokes, illustrates, considers,

Great Expectations 

She was dressed in rich materials-satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on-the other was on the table near her hand-her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a Prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

Techniques & Possible choices: 

  • rich, jewels, silk, splendid – suggest wealth
  • satin, lace, white – suggest layers ( a metaphor for how complicated Havisham is?)
  • repeated white – suggests innocence, purity
  • contradiction with her age, and choice of words ‘some bright’ ‘other jewels lay’ suggesting innocence has gone (left with), now bitterness?
  • scattered, half arranged, heaped could suggest her mental state or the suddenness of being jilted – again a metaphor for the fickleness of love/males?
  • listing of items, effective as it draws out her (original) happiness
  • the paragraph ends with ‘looking-glass’ – emphasises the importance of what she sees/what she was/has become.

Possible evaluative language:

  • Dickens endeavours to show….
  • Dickens expresses a view …. to the effect…
  • seeks to criticise
  • attempts to expose…..

Nicholas Nickleby – Dotheby’s Hall

Pale and haggard faces, lank and bony figures, children with the countenances of old men, deformities with irons upon their limbs, boys of stunted growth, and others whose long meagre legs would hardly bear their stooping bodies, all crowded on the view together; there were the bleared eye, the hare-lip, the crooked foot, and every ugliness or distortion that told of unnatural aversion conceived by parents for their offspring, or of young lives which, from the earliest dawn of infancy, had been one horrible endurance of cruelty and neglect. There were little faces which should have been handsome, darkened with the scowl of sullen, dogged suffering; there was childhood with the light of its eye quenched, its beauty gone, and its helplessness alone remaining; there were vicious-faced boys, brooding, with leaden eyes, like malefactors in a gaol; and there were young creatures on whom the sins of their frail parents had descended, weeping even for the mercenary nurses they had known, and lonesome even in their loneliness.

Brief evaluative plan: look above at the patterns/contrasts in the language used by Dickens to describe the children. This extract is full of imagery, techniques and vivid language. The extract shows a very explicit description of just how miserable this school for unwanted children is. Their faces are “pale and haggard,” their bodies deformed, showing anger and misery and suffering.  Dickens uses detail to overwhelm the reader with the suffering of these children.

Evaluative sentence stems: 

  • creates a [….] scene
  • creates the impression….
  • helps the reader feel…..
  • the writer’s choice is effective because……
  • the author builds dramatic tension….

A Tale of Two Cities – The Shoemaker

A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and showed the workman with an unfinished shoe upon his lap, pausing in his labour. His few common tools and scraps of leather were at his feet and on his bench. He had a white beard, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow face and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and thinness of his face would have caused them to look large, under his yet dark eyebrows and his confused white hair, though they had been really otherwise; but, they were naturally large, and looked unnaturally so. His yellow rags of shirt lay open at the throat and showed his body to be withered and worn.  He, and his old canvas frock, and his loose stockings, and all his poor tatters of clothes, in a long seclusion from direct light and air, faded down to such a dull uniformity of parchment-yellow, that it would have been hard to say which was which.

Important details:  the character is described as more dead than alive, with his hollow face, withered body, and a hand so thin that it looks transparent.  He’s got a raggedly cut white beard, a hollow face, and very bright eyes. His tattered yellow shirt shows a withered and worn body. He has faded down to a dull parchment colour due to lack of direct sunlight and air (a metaphor for freedom?); he blends into his yellow shirt, making it difficult to distinguish one from another.

Possible Evaluation sentences:

  • the author slowly reveals…..
  • the author is suggesting
  • I particularly liked the description…..
  • it made me feel/see/hear….
  • I believed…..

Here are other evaluative comments that you can look for in a text:

  1. look for patterns in words that create strong images
  2. look for emotive language that makes the reader feel something
  3. look for punctuation to enhance meaning
  4. look for verbs or modifiers that have strong connotations (positive or negative)
  5. look for adjectives/adverbs that add to the meaning and help you see an image vividly
  6. look for descriptions that reveal a different focus
  7. look for the senses, used to help reader’s understanding
  8. look for any technique used eg personification/onomatopoeia to reinforce an idea
  9. look for descriptions that build up an image for the reader (eg weather)
  10. look for patterns that build tension across an extract

 

Try using some of these verbs:

Untitled2.jpg

Thank you for reading.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s