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date: 16 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Several of Dickens’s plots, from The Pickwick Papers on, turn on linguistic miscommunications, converting into a catalyst of the narrative the inherent instability of language, which the prose itself both diligently resists and playfully exploits. This chapter considers Dickens’s use of language across his writing career in the context of its propensity, as Dickens conceived it, to generate confusion or misunderstanding, whether through false usage or from intrinsic ambiguities. It considers puns, animisms, syllepsis, and the dislocation of pronouns from their antecedents in relation to local effects and to larger understandings of language as representative of a more general malaise.

Keywords: The Pickwick Papers, Martin Chuzzlewit, Our Mutual Friend, language, puns, pronouns, animisms, syllepsis, ambiguity

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