Monday, February 08, 2021

Defamiliarization and sarcastic humor in Dickens's "The Old Curiosity Shop"

At the end of Charles Dickens's "The Old Curiosity Shop", Sampson Brass isn't transported to Australia; instead, he is "permitted to grace the mother country under certain insignificant restrictions." That is the beginning of a great comic passage in which Dickens describes imprisonment in an unusual way. The defamiliarization here does not serve to provide a new, startling perspective on something all too familiar; instead, it picks up on Brass's sarcastic humor and turns it against him, to the great pleasure of author and reader: "[...] he should, for a term of years, reside in a spacious mansion where several other gentlemen were lodged and boarded at the public charge [...]." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 February 2021)

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