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The Gentleman in the White Waistcoat: Dickens and Metonymy

John R. Reed
Vol. 39, No. 4, General Issue (Winter 2005), pp. 412-426
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Page Count: 15
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Dickens used metonymy, among other figures of speech, to distinguish his mode of writing from the realism that was coming into fashion during his career. Metonymy is a device generally described as characteristic of realism, but with Dickens it often ironically subverts the realistic focus on surfaces, facts, and materiality, and instead approaches the operations of metaphor and simile, thereby privileging fancy and evoking an almost symbolic narrative design. The starting point of this essay is a consideration of the obscure figure of the gentleman in the white waistcoat in Oliver Twist, but the argument is extended to Dickens's writings as a whole.

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