Dickens’ novels are characterized by their critique of society. They capture the debate behind a social issue and formulate an argument on it. The most prominent way Dickens does this is by making his characters as authentic as possible. One way Dickens makes his characters highly realistic is by giving them various accents. Accents convey more information than just the face value of the words being spoken. An accent can tell others where a person is from and perhaps their education level. By giving his characters varying accents, Dickens further appeals to the rhetorical form ethos. Ethos is a rhetorical style that consists of appealing to one’s established reputation in understanding one’s subject. The use of accents demonstrates an in-depth understanding of English society and the particular social issue being examined.

One Dickens’ novel in which accents play an important role is Oliver Twist. The accents vary depending on the characters origin. London is the center of the novel and brings in people from all around England. By giving a character a certain accent, Dickens tells the audience information about that character without openly stating those details. This literary strategy also gives the novel better flow. In the same way a person immediately understands more about another because of how he or she speaks, Dickens easily uses the same real-life phenomenon in his writing. Dickens also demonstrates a more complete understanding of London. In doing so, he also shows a good understanding of issues surrounding London. Since Dickens’ novel is a critique of the Poor Laws, he appeals to ethos by showing a heightened understanding of the London dynamic.

This mapping of accents presents a visual dissection of Dickens; rhetorical device and claim to ethos. Individual character accents are analyzed and mapped, as well as broad accent categories, which are also described and mapped.

Teachers and students alike can explore Dickens' use of accents to characterize the people in his novel via this resource. This resource not only compiles and analyzes this technique in depth, but also adds width to this topic by allowing viewers to explore the variety of accents that are unique to geographical areas of England.

  • Point out the rhetorical strategies used by Dickens
  • Specifically show how he uses accents to add to the literary merit of the novel
  • Follow Oliver's path as he meets new people around London


Flow of Content

Google Map: Meeting Characters along Oliver's Path
Google Map: Meeting characters along Oliver's Path.
Website Character Page: Learning about a character's accent.
Website Accent Page: Learning about a variety of accents.
Date of Release: April 21, 2011
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