Both Hard Times and Bleak House open with passages that are justly famous: frequently anthologised as examples of fine writing, and much used in the classroom to teach critical analysis. Each opening is a Dickensian tour de force, and each declares war upon a target that is anathema to the author. We begin our study with a detailed look at these opening statements, in part because it is the obvious, almost unavoidable first approach to these two novels, and in part for two other reasons: first, as an introduction to the rhetorical features of Dickens’s style, and second, to use these passages as a benchmark against which we can measure the novels as wholes. How successfully, having declared war, does Dickens fight and win his battles in the rest of the book?
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