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The title quote is probably too fixed. Generally, there can be no such prescriptive methods for writing literature, however, there is certainly evidence to show that when contradicting qualities or concepts are presented in close proximity, the intensity of the situation is heightened. Milton used this technique in Paradise Lost – assembling a clear-cut universe comprised entirely of polar opposites and without ambivalence or moral middle ground. Hence in Milton, every physical or mental property is in effect generated and defined by the absence of its opposite counterpart. So darkness is the complete absence of light, and evil is the complete absence of good etc. Dickens’ and Collins’ use of juxtaposition in their novels is more reticent than Milton though with a similar intent and evident immediately in the opening passage of a ‘Tale of Two Cities’: “It was the best of times it was the worst of times… in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” The quote is also an admission on behalf the nature of the novel itself and it is with this ‘superlative degree of comparison’ that we will be made to receive much of the events that unfold, and discover in the process that no such fixed model can properly express human nature which is too often ambiguous or prone to change.Both authors were aware that their novels were to be published as serialisations and so there was a very real need to maintain the reader’s interest between chapters. It is perhaps with this concern in mind that the authors penned their mild heroes into lurid depictions of violence and human brutality since the jarring of good and evil makes for shocking subject matter and invariably what is shocking is also powerful. With Dickens’ novel as with Collins’ the real dramatic tension is created by placing feminine champions of goodness and temperance within a masculine context of immorality and violence. As well as the perceived distinction between innocence and guilt, frailty and brutality, patience and impulsion, there is also a subtle contrast between an inner world and an outer one. A world of the soul, which is implicit and inherently good, and a world of the physical or the body which is explicit and outwardly evil. In both novels, the language separates in a similar way – outwardly graphic and sensational, yet with a subtle and often more powerful subtext. The texts of both novels are founded in conflict and perpetuate a sense of tension so it serves us well to do close readings of a short passage as much as an overview of the whole.


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