Welcome to The Hard Times
Charles Dickens

Issue Number: CD-001

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Mr Dickens and Sentences and Punctuation.

'Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, 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, shriveled 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 dogdays; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.'

This is how Mr Dickens wrote the text, this is why you will find some strange spellings like shrivelled.

Just look at the long sentences that Mr Dickens uses. This habit is not like modern writers of the 20th Century. There are only five sentences in the whole passage.

It can make the writing hard to read and can put people off trying. Once you know this is what to expect there are ways that you can make it easier.

The long and COMPLEX sentences that he uses make you feel Scrooge is a difficult and complicated person to know.

Mr Dickens uses punctuation in different ways to us in the modern age, too. Look at the exclamation mark after Scrooge (!). You'd expect the sentence to end, but no, it carries on with a small 'a'. The effect of this on the reader is to make the name Scrooge really stand out.

Mr Dickens uses COMMAS (,) and SEMI-COLONS (;) to help the reader to break the long sentences up. He is really making a list, a list of the descriptions of Scrooge.

The unpleasant descriptions listed together like this instead of short sentences as modern writers might do is to make the reader aware that Scrooge is an all-round nasty person without one pleasing habit about him at all. Reading it aloud makes you breathless.


What modern ways can you think of for making lists?
If you try writing the description out using one of these modern ways, is your feeling about Scrooge the same?

Try this out with a partner.

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