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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 9, Issue 2 (June 2011) : 253-66
Dickens and Dance in the 1840s

Goldie Morgentaler
Rubric A: Topoi
Rubric B: Dickens

Abstract

 

Dickens’s depictions of dance are usually read as manifestations of the jovial fun-loving aspect of his fiction. In what is arguably the most famous depiction of dance in the early works, the Fezziwigs’ ball in A Christmas Carol, Dickens not only uses the dance to suggest all the positive values associated with good feeling and sociability — the very things missing from Scrooge’s life — but also allows his prose to echo the actual rhythm of the dance, so that sound and sense work together to convey the message to both the reader and Scrooge that dancing is a pleasurable, life-affirming, socially positive activity. 

This paper explores the complex social and literary implications of Dickens’s presentation of dance, especially in the fiction that he wrote during the 1840s. While Dickens’s juxtaposition of dancing and social misery antedates the 1840s, the paper concentrates on the ways in which Dickens’s works of that period, primarily A Christmas Carol and The Battle for Life, depict dance as simultaneously a life-affirming activity and a deflection of the decade’s more serious social, medical and economic ills. 


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