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date: 20 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces two distinct and diametrically opposed attitudes to drink in the Dickens canon that find their way into both the novels and the journalism. The first, associated with Dickens’s comic characters and with the spirit of conviviality, sees drink as a positive social force binding people and groups together, while the second sees drink in what we would now think of as the idiom of alcoholism, leading to violence, alienation, and death. Drawing from studies of narrative, and on scholarship about addiction, this chapter argues that the coexistence of euphoric and dysphoric drunkenness cannot entirely be explained by recourse to opinions held by a biographical Dickens—to ideas for example of ambivalence or even paradox. Instead, it maintains that Dickens’s comic and tragic or serious drunks are embedded in different relations of cause and effect, and different narrative temporalities, logic, and genres. The chapter examines these different rhetorics of drinking in essays from Household Words and in two novels from different stages in Dickens’s career, The Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield.

Keywords: alcohol, drinking, consumption, temporality, narrative, genre, interpolated tales, Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, comic

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