Magazine 2015
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Saoko Funada  
Dickens’s novels include a large number of rhetorical tropes such as metaphor and simile by which a  
variety of scenes, substances or human characters are vividly or symbolically described. In Little Dorrit, one  
can see hundreds of metaphors by which the author attempts to delineate the physical appearances or  
distinctive personalities of characters elaborately. Above all, he makes particular use of metaphor in order  
to depict each appearance or personality of human characters as if they were non-human living creatures  
or inanimate objects by drawing close analogies between the natural attributes or physical appearances of  
two things. This paper therefore aims to examine the author’s metaphorical descriptions frequently used in  
Little Dorrit and thereby make clear the main semantic processes and functions performed by his metaphors.  
Additionally, I focus on his remarkable tendency to either humanise objects or dehumanise various characters  
in order to elucidate the mechanisms of analogical relations between human beings and non-human living  
creatures (or inanimate substances) by considering the author’s point of view and power of imagination.  
Thus, I shall firstly look at Dickens’s typical devices in terms of forms and techniques, and secondly explicate  
the mechanics of conceptual linkage between tenor and vehicle so as to discover the affinities between two  
different things compared. By so doing, I am to show the linguistic characteristics of Dickens’s metaphors.  
Key Words: Metaphor, Figure of Speech, Dickens, Stylistics, Semantics, Humanisation, Dehumanisation  
Dickens’s novels include a large number of rhetorical tropes, such as metaphor and simile, by which  
various scenes, substances or human characters are vividly or symbolically described. In Little Dorrit, we  
can see hundreds of similes and metaphors by which the author attempts to elaborately delineate the  
physical appearances or distinctive personalities of characters. Above all, he makes particular use of  
metaphorto depict each appearance or personality of his human characters as though they were non-  
human living creatures or inanimate objects by drawing close analogies between the natural attributes or  
physical appearances of two things.Therefore, the main purpose of my paperis to examine themetaphorical  
descriptions frequently used in Little Dorrit, and thereby bring to light the main semantic processes and  
functions performed by his metaphors. Additionally, I shall focus on his remarkable tendency to either  
humanise objects or dehumanise various charactersin order to elucidate the mechanisms of analogical  
relationships between human beings and non-human living creatures (or inanimate substances)by  
considering the author’s point of view and power ofimagination.Thus, I shall first look at Dickens’s typical  
devices, in terms of forms and techniques, and second explicate the mechanics of conceptual linkage  
between tenor and vehicle so as to discover the affinities between the different things that are compared.  
By so doing, I intend to show the linguistic characteristics of Dickens’s rhetoric,focusing mainly on  
Devices of Metaphor  
First, I will cite two definitions of metaphor. Way (1991: 11) refers to metaphor as a linguistic trope which  
involves a deviation from ordinary and straightforward usage of language, whilst Goatly (1997: 8) remarks  
that metaphor occurs when a unit of discourse is used to refer unconventionally to an object, process or  
concept, or colligates in an unconventional way. In Goatly’s view, metaphor consists of three units:  
tenor’, ‘vehicle’ and ‘ground’, as shown in Figure 1. That is, the tenor is the subject to which attributes  
are ascribed, while the vehicle is the subject from which the attributes are borrowed. Thus, metaphorical  
expressions are established on the basis of similarity or analogy between the tenor and the vehicle. In  
other words, the ground consists of the similarities between the tenor and the vehicle. In my paper, I will  
pay attention to Goatly’s view, as it will be a crucial key for us in explicating the linguistic mechanisms of  
how each metaphorical description is conceived and understood in the reader’s mind.  
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Figure 1 The Three Units Forming the Metaphorical Structure  
Metaphor in general is a device for comparing two things without using terms such as ‘like’ or ‘as’. For  
this reason, the descriptive form ‘A is B’ is most frequent, as in ‘he is a lion in battle’.Despite its simple  
structure, compared to a simile using ‘like’ or ‘as’, the metaphorical device in this novel plays a  
significant role for Dickens in delineating particular features of characters or objects either elaborately  
or fancifully. Therefore, if we apply all the classifications of metaphorical forms presented by Ikeda  
1992), Goatly (1997) and Sukagawa (1999) to Dickens’s metaphors, we can see eleven types of  
forms, namely Types I to XI. In the next section1.1 Word-Class andMetaphor, I will explicate the  
mechanism of Dickens’s use of metaphor in detail, first focusing on the grammatical forms. In Little  
Dorrit, several word classes (i.e. nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs) are exploited in his metaphors  
as a framework for Dickens’s rhetorical function on a syntactical level.  
.1 Word-Class and Metaphor  
.1.1 Nouns  
Firstly, Types I to VI denote the typical structures of Dickens’s noun metaphors most commonly used  
in Little Dorrit :  
Although slightly different, I consider their classifications of metaphor forms basically the same in that  
their method of understanding metaphor and simile is equally matched: the former consists of ‘A = B’,  
while the latter ‘A = as/like B’.  
Type I: (Det) + N  
1) ‘How goes the world this forenoon, gentlemen? My little one, you see, going round with me to  
have a peep at her father’s birds. Fie, then! Look at the birds, my pretty, look at the birds’. (4)  
Type II: (Det) + N (Vocative)  
(2) ‘Dear Fanny, what is the matter? Tell me’.  
Matter, you little Mole’, said Fanny. (492)  
Type III: N1+ Copula + N2  
3) Not for the first time. No, not for the first time. In Little Dorrit’s eyes, the outside of that window  
had been a distant star, on other nights than this. (144)  
4) To Mrs. Merdle, Mrs. Gowan repaired on a visit of self-condolence, after having given the  
gracious consent aforesaid. She drove into town for the purpose, in a one-horse carriage,  
irreverently called at that period of English history, a pill-box. (328)  
Type IV: N1 + N2(Apposition)  
5) The Chief Butler, the Avenging-Spirit of this great man’s life, relaxed nothing of his severity. He  
looked on at these dinners when the bosom was not there, as he looked on at other dinners when  
the bosom was there; and his eye was a basilisk to Mr. Merdle. (465)  
Type V: N1 + of + N2(Genitive)  
6) None of us clearly know to whom or to what we are indebted in this wise, until some marked stop  
in the whirling wheel of life brings the right perception with it. It comes with sickness, it comes with  
sorrow, it comes with the loss of the dearly loved, it is one of the most frequent uses of adversity. (602)  
Type VI: N1 + of + N2(Apposition)  
7) She opened a drawer or two, looked over some business papers, and put them back again. Her  
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severe face had no thread of relaxation in it, by which any explorer could have been guided to the  
gloomy labyrinth of her thoughts. (36)  
Type I, the ‘determiner + noun’ form, occurs 278 times in the novel. The instance (1) suggests a close  
affinity between two criminals (John Baptist Cavalletto and Rigaud) and birds in that the men are both  
captured and confined as if locked up in a birdcage. Therefore, Dickens describes the criminals in  
association with birds.Next, Type II (i.e. the ‘determiner + noun’ form) denotes a vocative form of noun  
metaphor, of which there are 26 examples. Type III is the form with a copula as in ‘A is B’. The copula  
in this case includes a verb such as ‘be’, ‘seem’, ‘appear’ and so on. This type of noun metaphor is the  
second most frequent (124 examples).Type IV is effective in linking two nouns together in apposition,  
although this form is comparatively rare (12 examples). Similarly, Type V is another way of linking two  
nouns together, using the preposition ‘of’. This is, however, different from Type IV in that it is rather  
similar to constructions such as ‘B of A’ or ‘B’s A’. Although this type (47 examples) is not so frequent  
as other types, such as Type I and Type III, it is most effective in not only describing the appearance or  
behaviour of characters themselves but also in symbolising each character’s inner thoughts or emotion  
towards other characters who profoundly influence his/her life and fortune. The phrase ‘the whirling  
wheel of life’ as in (6) symbolically delineates Arthur Clennam’s emotional state as being greatly influenced  
by his surroundings. There is yet another type of ‘noun + of + noun’ form as in Type VI (18 examples).  
This also functions throughapposition, linking two nouns together using the preposition ‘of’.  
.1.2 Adjectives  
Type VII, as given below, takes the form of ‘adjective + noun’, which also performs a rhetorical function  
in Dickens’s metaphor. This form is most effective in symbolising the quality of certain human  
characteristics, although its frequency is different depending on which of his works one reads. For  
instance, we can see no more than eight examples of this type in Oliver Twist, while ninety-nine examples  
are found in Little Dorrit. As in (8) and (9), Dickens makes good use of adjective metaphor to symbolically  
depict dreary landscapes or a dismal atmosphere as if they were human beings. It is therefore noteworthy  
that he often insinuates a character’s melancholy disposition or pessimistic view of life by means of  
Type VII: Adj + N  
8) It was a Sunday evening in London, gloomy, close and stale. Maddening church bells of all degrees  
of dissonance, sharp and flat, cracked and clear, fast and slow, made the brick and mortar echoes  
hideous. Melancholy streets in a penitential garb of soot, steeped the souls of the people who were  
condemned to look at them out of windows, in dire despondency. (23)  
9) She imparted to this sentiment, in itself almost Solomonic, so extremely injurious and personal a  
character, by levelling it straight at the visitor’s head, that it became necessary to lead Mr. F’s Aunt  
from the room. This was quietly done by Flora; Mr. F’s Aunt offering no resistance, but enquiring on her  
way out ‘What he come there for, then?’ with implacable animosity. (132)  
In addition, there is yet another form of adjective metaphor, Type VIII, though this is a rare form with  
only four examples in this novel:  
Type VIII: N + Copula + Adj  
10) He came down the dark winding stairs into the yard, with an increased sense upon him of the  
gloom of the wall that was dead, and of the shrubs that were dead, and of the fountain that was dry,  
and of the statue that was gone. (554)  
.1.3 Adverbs  
Next, Type IX is the ‘verb + adverb’ form of metaphor,including 11 examples. Most of the manner  
adverbs in the following instances modify verbs in a figurative way:  
Type IX: V + Adv  
11) His little black eyes sparkled electrically. His very hair seemed to sparkle, as he roughened it. He  
was in that highly-charged state that one might have expected to draw sparks and snaps from him by  
presenting a knuckle to any part of his figure. (324-5)  
As for (11), the adverb ‘electrically’ is effective for Dickens in emblematically emphasizing Mr Pancks’s  
mechanical behaviour and inhuman nature. This adverbial structure therefore plays a significant part in  
symbolising Mr. Pancks’s peculiar figure and attribute.  
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.1.4 Verbs  
Furthermore, we can see yet other types of forms constructed with verbs, as in Types X and XI. Type X  
takes the form of ‘subject + intransitive verb’ as in (12), whilst‘transitive verb’ is metaphorical as illustrated  
in (13) and (14). Both of these are effective forms for Dickens in describing various scenes or the  
qualities of particular characters colourfully and impressionistically.  
Type X: Vi (i = intransitive)  
12) The clouds were flying fast, the wind was coming up in gusts, banging some neighbouring shutters  
that had broken loose, twirling the rusty chimney-cowls and weathercocks, and rushing round and  
round a confined adjacent churchyard as if it had a mind to blow the dead citizens our of their graves.  
The low thunder, muttering in all quarters of the sky at once, seemed to threaten vengeance for this  
attempted desecration, and to mutter, ‘Let them rest! Let them rest!’(288)  
Type XI: Vt (t = transitive)  
13) Wherever he went, this foredoomed Tip appeared to take the prison walls with him, and to set  
them up in such trade or calling; and to prowl about within their narrow limits in the old slip-shod,  
purposeless, down-at-heelway; until the real immoveable Marshalsea walls asserted their fascination  
over him, and brought him back. (63)  
14) He went out, and she shut the door upon him. He looked up at the windows of his mother’s room,  
and the dim light, deadened by the yellow blinds, seemed to say a response after Affery, and to  
mutter, ‘Don’t ask me anything. Go away!’ (459)  
In the first place, Dickens often attributes human thought, knowledge, and emotion to artificial objects  
e.g. walls) or natural phenomena (e.g. thunder and light). This is one of the author’s typical humanisation  
devices. Above all, he often uses intransitive/transitive verbs to visualise the scene where inanimate  
things may appear vigorous and powerful in his eyes. By so doing, the author attempts to portray  
realistically his vision of the world that surrounds him. Observing the forms and vocabulary in the  
examples above, we find that almost all of the artificial objects or natural objects/phenomena he  
describes are animated with verbs such asmutter, assert, bring and say, all of which are related to  
human powers and activities. As Brook (1970: 35-36) remarks, the process of humansation makes it  
possible to attribute human emotion and powers to inanimate objects or to non-human living creatures.  
Thus, the author makes abundant use of humanisation so that the reader may envisage the appearances  
or behaviours of particular substances or human beings and take a great interest in them.  
.2 Collocational Analysis  
.2.1 Adjectives  
Furthermore, it is fundamental to shed light on another approach to Dickens’s adjective metaphors, a  
collocational approach to the author’s linguistic styles proposed by Hori (2004), who focuses on  
metaphorical collocations involving the cohesion of two ormore co-occurring words.Referring to  
Dickens’s adjective metaphors, it is important to point out that almost all of the metaphors with the  
adjective + noun’ form are based on dehumanisation devices, which involves the process of transforming  
human beings into animals, supernatural beings, natural objects or artificial objects as given below:  
an elephantine build (LD, 123)  
Supernatural beings)  
a cold and ghostly eye (LD, 518), a ghostly air (LD, 639), her ghostly figure (LD, 654), this spectral  
woman (LD, 656)  
rosy faces (LD, 167)  
the same barrel-organ way (LD, 97), a little coaly steam-tug [Mr. Pancks] (LD, 125), that coaly little  
gentleman (LD, 231), the statue bride (LD, 238), whose leathern face (LD, 302), that highly-charged  
state (LD, 324), a chalky creation (LD, 377), a cool, waxy, blown-out woman (LD, 377), his coaly hand  
LD, 489), hammer-headed woman (LD, 656)  
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Among all the four patterns of transference, we can find that in Little Dorritthe pattern from human  
beings to artificial objects is the most frequent (10 examples) when considering the collocations of  
adjective + noun’, whilst the patterns from human beings to animals and from human beings to  
plantsare the leastfrequent (1 example each).As for the process by which artificial objects are applied  
to various characters, it is worth noting that the author is in the habit of using words such as coaly,  
chalky, waxy and leathern for inanimate metaphors in order to symbolise each character’s mechanical  
figure or lack of human nature.Also, the phrase ‘a little coaly steam-tug’ includes two metaphorical  
expressions, namely coal and steam-tug, both of which are employed to describe the same person,  
Mr. Pancks. As Hori (2004: 58) puts it, ‘a collocational clash or discrepancy of associations between  
different metaphors may convey a sense of a character’s curious personality’; and one can infer from  
this view that Dickens attempts to emphasize Mr. Pancks’s mechanical behaviour and inhuman nature  
using two metaphors in this context. He is so spiteful or cunning a character in Dickens’s eyes that the  
author constantly attempts to degrade him to a machine-like state via metaphor. That is, the semantic  
association between Pancks and coal as well as between Pancks and a steam-tug not only comically  
represents his mechanical figure itself but also symbolises his lack of human attributes. In this way, we  
can identify dual conceptual co-occurrences between Mr. Pancks (tenor) and coal (vehicle) as well as  
Mr. Pancks (tenor) and a steam-tug (vehicle). This structure, therefore, plays a significant role in  
representing a certain quality of specific characters within the novel.  
.2.2 Adverbs  
Although less frequent than adjective metaphor, Dickens’s use of adverbial collocation also includes  
unique metaphorical expressions. The examples below represent some of Dickens’s collocational  
styles,wherein manner adverbs modify adjectives or verbs figuratively, and where all of which include  
the author’s particular device of dehumanisation.  
Supernatural beings)  
all divinely calm (LD, 279), a diabolically silent laugh (LD, 301), he made it ghastly (LD, 560), Angelically  
comforting (LD, 631)  
Arthur Clennam again mechanically set forth (LD, 96), His little black eyes sparkled electrically (LD,  
. Semantic Classifications  
.1 Semantic Linkage in Metaphors  
In this section, I shall consider the close relationship between two referents, namely ‘tenor’ and ‘vehicle’,  
focusing on the semantic concepts involved in Dickens’s metaphorical statements. If we analyse a  
process of semantic shift from one concept to another in his metaphors, four main patterns of shift can  
be found in Little Dorrit. That is, this novel mainly includes four patterns of semantic transference, as in  
15) to (18), expressed here as the attributes + animate and – animate: from ‘+ animate to + animate’,  
from ‘+ animate to –animate’, from ‘– animate to + animate’ and from ‘– animate to – animate’. In  
addition, as outlined in Table 1, I shall examine the frequency of these four patterns among the eleven  
types of metaphorical devices, Types I to XI. However, here I only consider the vocabulary of Dickens’s  
metaphors whose ‘tenor’ and ‘vehicle’ are specific from the context. The novel has 887 examples of  
these types of metaphors.  
+ Animate to + Animate)  
15) Little Dorrit had not attained her twenty-second birthday without finding a lover. Even in the sallow  
Marshalsea, the ever young Archershot off a few featherless arrows now and then from a mouldy  
bow, and winged a Collegian or two. (177)  
+ Animate to – Animate)  
16) Mrs. General had no opinions. Her way of forming a mind was to prevent it from forming opinions.  
She had a little circular set of mental grooves or rails, on which she started little trains of other  
people’s opinions, which never overtook one another, and never got anywhere. (377)  
– Animate to + Animate)  
17) In the dining-room, a sentimental desire came over Flora to look into the dragon closet which  
had so often swallowed Arthur in the days of his boyhood—not improbably because, as a very dark  
closet, it was a likely place to be heavy in. Arthur, fast subsiding into despair, had opened it, when a  
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knock was heard at the outer door. (575)  
– Animate to – Animate)  
18) In the back garret—a sickly room, with a turn-up bedstead in it, so hastily and recently turned up  
that the blankets were boiling over, as it were, and keeping the lid open—a half-finished breakfast of  
coffee and toast, for two persons, was jumbled down anyhow on a ricketty table. (77)  
Table 1 The Frequency of Semantic Linkageby Metaphor in Little Dorrit  
Animate to  
Animate to  
Inanimate to  
Inanimate to  
First, we can see from the table that the shift from ‘animate to inanimate’ is the most frequent (277  
examples), while the pattern ‘inanimate to animate’ is the second most frequent (253 examples). Also, as  
for the transference from ‘animate to inanimate’, Type I (100 examples), Type X (50 examples) and Type  
XI (43 examples) are far more frequent than the other patterns of semantic shift. Additionally, it is noteworthy  
that Type X and Type XI are also frequent in the shift from ‘inanimate to animate’. Thus, we can infer from  
the ratio that Dickens has a remarkable tendency to humanise various lifeless objects in order to make  
each appearance of the surroundings more vivid and colourful. Furthermore, the author is in the habit of  
animalising or mechanising unique characters so that he can elaborately explain their behaviours and  
suggest a resemblance between two dissimilar things that are being compared. Hence, I shall later focus  
on a number of characters chiefly dehumanised, on the basis of their personalities.  
2.2 Semantic Tree  
In this section, we will direct our attention to a semantic diagram in order to elucidate a number of  
tendencies in Dickens’s metaphorical descriptions.Drawing on semantic diagrams in Bickerton (1980:  
3-7), Way (1991: 98) and Goatly (1997: 39) who attempted to analyse the semantic components used  
in metaphor, one can recognise the distance between the two features (i.e. tenor and vehicle) involved in  
Dickens’s figures of speech.Figure 2 is a modified version of a tree diagram put forward earlier by these  
scholars, which will be a fundamental means for us to investigate the semantic mechanisms of his devices.  
All phenomena  
Figure 2 Semantic Tree Diagram of Dickens’s Metaphors  
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The diagram indicates how all phenomena in the world can be categorised into a number of components  
based on whether or not they are + concrete, – concrete, + animate, – animate, + human, – human and  
so on, branching off from the top of the tree. Above all, Dickens shows a remarkable tendency to  
describe people as if they were natural objects, artefacts, supernatural beings or animals, by means of  
dehumanisation. I will therefore later examine the way in which various people are represented as non-  
human living beings or substances.  
As to the diagram, we add the eight semantic components, namely Behaviour, Senses, Feelings,  
Natural phenomena, Substance, Supernatural being, Animal, and Human at the bottom of the tree as  
they are used often in the author’s metaphoric expressions. Each of these components is further categorised  
into various features branching out their nodes down into the bottom of the hierarchy, and therefore,  
Animal, for example, can be further categorised into Mammal, Fish, Bird, and Insect, all of which Dickens  
makes good use of in dehumanisation. Now, I shall here apply this tree diagram to Dickens’s metaphors,  
as this will be a crucial key in explicating the linguistic functions of his devices.  
Table 2 The Frequency of the Patterns of Semantic Linkage  
+ Human to + Artefact  
+ Artefact to + Human  
+ Human to – Human  
+ Human to + Human  
– Artefact to + Human  
+ Artefact to + Artefact  
– Concrete to – Concrete  
+ Human to – Concrete  
– Concrete to + Human  
– Concrete to + Artefact  
+ Human to – Artefact  
– Human to + Human  
+ Artefact to – Artefact  
+ Artefact to – Human  
– Concrete to – Artefact  
– Concrete to – Human  
+ Artefact to – Concrete  
– Artefact to – Human  
– Artefact to – Artefact  
– Artefact to – Concrete  
– Human to – Artefact  
– Human to + Artefact  
Among the 887 instances of metaphors, we find 22 patterns of semantic transference from one component  
to another, as in Table 2. Referring to the table, we notice one significant point: the pattern from + human  
to + artefact is the most frequent (216 examples), whilst the transition from‘+ human to – human’ ranks  
third (96 examples). It is one of the marked characteristics of Dickens to transform human beings into  
animals, supernatural beings or artefacts by dehumanisation. Moreover, we also discover that Dickens  
has a remarkable tendency to humanise various lifeless objects in order to make each appearance of the  
surroundings more vivid and graphic, as outlined in 2.3.1 Humanisation.  
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.3 Converse Processes  
Now, we will analyse the patterns of semantic transference based on the tree diagram. I have found that  
dehumanisation is more frequent than humanisationnot only in Little Dorrit but also in almost all of his  
novels, such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectationsand Our Mutual Friend.  
However, humanisation is also of great importance in his novels, for it may reflect the author’s/hero’s  
inner feelings or attitudes towards his or her surroundings within the world. In this section, we shall,  
therefore, examine how the author delineates the appearances of his surroundings by means of both  
techniques, and attempts to convey his vision of the world.  
.3.1. Humanisation  
Again, humanisation is a means of description that involves transference from non-human living creatures  
or artificial objects to human beings. As forLittle Dorrit, although this technique is less frequent than  
dehumanisation,we can recognise the author’s ingenious descriptions and artistic talent in personifying  
artificial substances, natural phenomena or abstract things. Furthermore, as Brook (1970: 35) remarks,  
this technique of attributing human emotions and powers to inanimate objects or to non-human living  
creatures enables Dickens to reflect his (or the narrator’s) emotions or thoughts toward his social  
Artefacts to Human Beings)  
human beings  
19) There was the large, hard-featured clock on the sideboard, which he used to see bending its  
figured brows upon him with a savage joy when he was behind-hand with his lessons, and which, when  
it was wound up once a week with an iron handle, used to sound as if it were growling in ferocious  
anticipation of the miseries into which it would bring him. (27)  
Natural Objects/Natural Phenomena to Human Beings)  
human beings  
20) This scroll, majestic in its severe simplicity, illuminated a little slip of front garden abutting on the  
thirsty high road, wherea few of the dustiest of leaves hung their dismal heads and led a life of choking.  
û0the stars; all bad weather; rain; hail; frost; thaw; snowÒ! human beings  
21) The stars, to be sure, coldly watched it (= the old house) when the nights and the smoke were clear  
enough; and all bad weather stood by it with a rare fidelity. You should alike find rain, hail, frost, and  
thaw lingering in that dismal enclosure, when they had vanished from other places; and as to snow, you  
should see it there for weeks, long after it had changed from yellow to black, slowly weeping away its  
grimy life. (150-1)  
Abstracts to Human Beings)  
human being  
22) Mrs. General was not to be told of anything shocking. Accidents, miseries, and offences, were never  
to be mentioned before her. Passion was to go to sleep in the presence of Mrs. General, and blood was  
to change to milk and water. (377)  
With regard to humanisation, which includes 245 instances, the pattern of shift from + artefact to +  
human is the most frequent (126 examples), whilst the shift from – artefact to + human ranks fifth (61  
examples), because the author tends to attribute human emotion and abilities to non-human living creatures  
or lifeless objects especially for the purpose of visualising the scene where inanimate objects or natural  
objects/phenomena such as houses, walls, plants, mists, rain and wind may appear more vigorous and  
powerful in the narrator’s/the author’s eye.It is also a fundamental characteristic of Dickens’s metaphor  
that he makes use of humanisation by which natural objects/phenomena are likened to human beings.  
Instance (20) exhibits the way in whicha few of the dustiest of leaves hung their heads on the road as if  
they were human beings, and the noun phrases ‘their dismal heads’ and ‘a life of choking’ are used to  
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imply a sense of an anxiety or a pessimistic atmosphere in the surroundings. As Meier (1982: 103)  
remarks, ‘when the natural elements such as wind, rain, and the sea are animated, this device is usually  
applied in order to parallel or comment on human action and fate’, it can be said that this humanisation  
has a symbolic significance in Dickens’s metaphor. Above all, the author’s method of transforming rain,  
hail, frost, thaw or snow into human beings as in (21) is worth noting in that the ‘lingering’ or ‘weeping’ of  
these natural phenomena contains a symbolical element, as it points, in the author’s eye, to Little Dorrit’s  
dismal life and fortune.  
.3.2 Dehumanisation  
In this section, we will analyse the author’s metaphorical descriptions on the basis of characterisation,  
and explicate some of the deep meanings inherent in his use of dehumanisation. As in Little Dorrit,  
Dickens has a tendency to replace good people with harmless animals, while evil or villainous people are  
likely to be replaced with dangerous animals or something else with bad qualities. If we further consider  
the function of lexis in dehumanisation, we can discover that Dickens makes the most of the device to  
portray people of good or gentle character as harmless domestic animals (e.g. bird, tortoise,  
mouse,elephant, etc.) and people of evil character as insects or dangerous predatory beasts (e.g.  
cat,beast, phoenix,porcupine, reptile, etc.) or objects devoid of human abilities (e.g. machine, instrument,  
organ, wax, statue, coal, etc.).  
Human Beings to Artefacts)  
Mr. Pancks - steam-tug  
23) Calling these things to mind, and ranging Mr. Pancks in a row with them, Arthur Clennam leaned this  
day to the opinion, without quite deciding on it, that the last of the Patriarchs was the drifting Booby  
aforesaid, with the one idea of keeping the bald part of his head highly polished: and that, much as an  
unwieldy ship in the Thames river may sometimes be seen heavily driving with the tide, broadside on,  
stern first, in its own way and in the way of everything else, though making a great show of navigation,  
when all of a sudden, a little coaly steam-tug will bear down upon it take it in tow, and bustle off with it;  
similarly, the cumbrous Patriarch had been taken in tow by the snorting Pancks, and was now following  
in the wake of that dingy little craft. (125)  
Mrs. General - wax; varnish  
24) If her eyes had no expression, it was probably because they had nothing to express. If she had few  
wrinkles, it was because her mind had never traced its name or any other inscription on her face. A cool,  
waxy, blown-out woman, who had never lighted well. (377)  
25) There was varnish in Mrs. General’s voice, varnish in Mrs. General’s touch, an atmosphere of  
varnish round Mrs. General’s figure. Mrs. General’s dreams ought to have been varnished—if she had  
any—lying asleep in the arms of the good Saint Bernard, with the feathery snow falling on his house-top.  
Human Beings to Animals)  
Mr. Pancks - porcupine  
26) Mr. Pancks was making a very porcupine of himself by sticking his hair up, in the contemplation of  
this state of accounts, when old Mr. Nandy, re-entering the cottage with an air of mystery, entreated them  
to come and look at the strange behaviour of Mr. Baptist, who seemed to have met with something that  
had scared him. (480)  
Mrs. General - phoenix  
27) The phoenix was to let, on this elevated perch, when Mr. Dorrit, who had lately succeeded to his  
property, mentioned to his bankers that he wished to discover a lady, well-bred, accomplished, well  
connected, well accustomed to good society, who was qualified at once to complete the education of  
his daughters, and to be their matron or chaperon. Mr. Dorrit’s bankers, as the bankers of the county-  
widower, instantly said, ‘Mrs. General’. (375)  
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Little Dorrit - bird  
28) The courtyard received them at last, and there he said good bye to Little Dorrit. Little as she had  
always looked, she looked less than ever when he saw her going into the Marshalsea lodge passage, the  
little mother attended by her big child.  
00The cage door opened, and when the small bird, reared in captivity, had tamely flutteredin,0he saw  
it shut again; and then he came away. (87)  
Human Beings to Supernatural Beings)  
Mrs. Clennam - phantom  
29) Still so recoiling in her chair that her overpoised weight moved it, from time to time, a little on its  
wheels, and gave her the appearance of a phantom of fierce aspect gliding away from him, she interposed  
her left arm, bent at the elbow with the back of her hand towards her face, between herself and him, and  
looked at him in a fixed silence. (39)  
Little Dorrit - angel  
(30) ‘O, my best friend! Dear Mr. Clennam, don’t let me see you weep! Unless you weep with pleasure to  
see me. I hope you do. Your own poor child come back!’  
So faithful, tender, and unspoiled by Fortune. In the sound of her voice, in the light of hereyes, in the  
touch of her hands, so Angelically comforting and true! (631)  
Human Beings to Natural Objects/Natural Phenomena)  
Mrs. Merdle - cabbage; snow  
31) Powder! There was so much Powder in waiting, that it flavoured the dinner. Pulverous particles got  
into the dishes, and Society’s meats had a seasoning of first-rate footmen. Mr. Merdle took down a  
countess who was secluded somewhere in the core of an immense dress, to which she was in the  
proportion of the heart to the overgrown cabbage. (209)  
(32) Mrs. Merdle shrugged her snowy shoulders and put her hand upon the jewel-stand, checking a little  
cough, as though to add, ‘why a man looks out for this sort of thing, my dear’. Then the parrot shrieked  
again, and she put up her glass to look at him, and said, ‘Bird! Do be quiet!’ (329)  
Human Beings into Abstracts)  
Mr. Merdle -the shining wonder; the new constellation  
33) … he, the shining wonder, the new constellation to be followed by the wise men bringing gifts,  
until it stopped over certain carrion at the bottom of a bath and disappeared—was simply the greatest  
Forger and the greatest Thief that ever cheated the gallows. (594)  
Little Dorrit - love  
34) One morning, as Arthur listened for the light feet, that every morning ascended winged to his heart,  
bringing the heavenly brightness of a new love into the room where the old love wrought so hard and  
been so true; one morning, as he listened, he heard her coming, not alone. (684)  
As for the technique of dehumanisation, we can recognise from instances (23) to (34) that Dickens  
effectively uses the method of depicting particular characters as if they were artefacts, animals, supernatural  
beings, natural objects/phenomena or even abstracts by metaphor. From these examples, we can see  
that almost all of the characters are animalised or mechanised as a predatory beast such asa porcupine  
orphoenix, or artificial objects like a steam-tug, wax or varnish. What stands out most regarding this  
device is that Dickens tends to degrade spiteful persons into less than human beings,for example,  
indentifying Mr Pancks with a steam-tug or porcupine; while sacred or adorable women like Little Dorrit  
are often praised by Arthur Clennam as though they werea bird, angel or love. This is one of the remarkable  
characteristics of Dickens’s novels. Kincaid (1971: 168) remarks that the main purpose of Dickens’s  
dehumanisation of various people is to appraise them warmly or coldly, so that the author may speak of  
good people as harmless domestic animals and evil people as dangerous predatory beasts or inanimate  
objects. Therefore, I shall now focus on two characters, namely Mr Pancks and Little Dorrit, chiefly  
dehumanised on the basis of their personalities.  
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To start with, we can discover from instance (23) that Mr Pancks is mechanised as if he were a steam-tug.  
He is so spiteful or cunning a character in Dickens’s eyes that the author constantly attempts to degrade  
him to a machine-like state. That is, the semantic association between Pancks and a steam-tug not only  
comically represents his mechanical figure itself but also symbolises his lack of human attributes. In  
addition, it is noteworthy that Dickens successively mechanises Mr Pancks as a steam-tug with 100  
examples where verb metaphors are effectively created: verbs such as ‘puff’, ‘snort’, ‘drift’, ‘fume’, ‘smoke’  
and ‘steam’ symbolise Mr Pancks’s mechanical figure and movement. This repetitive use is of great  
importance inemphasizing his unpleasant character in the novel. In this way, we can identify a conceptual  
relationship between Mr Pancks (tenor) and a steam tug (vehicle). Moreover, this type of mechanisation  
is reminiscent of other characters likeMr Wemmick in Great Expectations, whose face is associated with  
a post office, for his mechanical appearance constantly draws the hero Pip’s attention. Therefore, in  
Dickens’s novels, this type of dehumanisation includes a symbolical effect that suggests the non-human  
artificiality in a civilised society, as the author attempts not only to comically delineate someone’s  
mechanical figure itself, but also to suggest his/her inhuman nature in terms of ‘coldness’, ‘oddity’ or  
‘ferocity’, all of which include negative nuances.In other words, the effect of dehumanisation is not a mere  
embellishment of description but a symbolisation of the inhuman and life-lacking qualities of particular  
In contrast, we can find other characters dehumanised as if they were animals, supernatural beings or  
abstracts, but in a favourable light. For instance, sacred or adorable women like Little Dorrit are often  
praised by Arthur Clennam as an animal, supernatural or abstract being in a positive context, which is a  
marked tendency in Dickens’s novels. As in citation (28), Dickens is in the habit of representing people of  
gentle, loving or timid disposition as birds in this novel. Also in David Copperfield, as for people of good  
nature, Mr Chillip is one of the characters frequently compared with a birdby simileon the basis of his  
gentle disposition. Similarly, Dora Spenlow in Great Expectations is dehumanised as abird or abutterfly,  
owing to her shy and timid character. In Dickens’s metaphor, other female characters like Dora and  
Agnes in David Copperfield are often praised by the hero David as if they were supernatural beings (using  
words such asfairy or angel), natural phenomena or abstracts. Although this type of expression, which  
gives us positive nuances, is rare in Little Dorrit, it is one of the fundamental means of description used by  
Dickens to symboliseheavenly character or suggest a good nature and harmlessness in other people.  
Dehumanisation has a high frequency of use in this novel, as the author focuses on delineating every  
feature of various characters by degrading evil or fearful people to a ghostly or animal-like state. It also  
includes a transformation of human beings into lifeless objects, which is far more frequent than that of  
human beings into animals or supernatural beings. Additionally, this technique is more often used in  
metaphor than simile and most effective in attacking and lowering the quality of other particular characters.  
Because of this, the author gives humorous portrayals of various characters on the basis of their personalities  
for the purpose of not only appraising them coldly but also insinuating his vision of the mechanised,  
inhuman society that surrounded him. In Dickens’s novels, almost all of the instances of dehumanisation  
include negative, rather than positive, nuances, since he has a remarkable tendency toward animalising  
or mechanising naturally unpleasant and villainous characters.  
So far, I have examined Dickens’s metaphorical statements through which various scenes, substances or  
human characters are vividly or symbolically described. Above all, the author makes particular use  
ofdehumanisationin order to depict each appearance or personality of human characters as if they were  
non-human living creatures or inanimate objects, achieving this by drawing close analogies between the  
natural attributes or physical appearances of the two things compared. As his metaphors include various  
structures and semantic patterns of shift, we can conclude that his delineations are continuously rich in  
humour and vividness, and that his technical aims and functions in metaphors are unique. It is worth  
noting that Dickens’s animalisation and mechanisation appear with exceeding frequency in this novel so  
that he can enrich his expression of his worldview through his unique rhetorical devices, as he is exceedingly  
aware of the dehumanising qualities in mankind and attempts to give a colourful and vivid delineation of  
each character. Thus, his imagination and sense of humour are reflected in his sophisticated use of  
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Select Bibliography  
A. Texts  
Dickens, Charles.Oliver Twist. 1837-38. Ed. Kathleen Tillotson. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP,  
David Copperfield. 1849-50. Ed. Nina Burgis. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.  
Bleak House. 1852-53.Ed. Stephen Gill. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.  
Little Dorrit. 1855-56. Ed. Harvey Peter Sucksmith. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.  
Great Expectations. 1860-61. Ed. Margaret Cardwell. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.  
Our Mutual Friend. 1864-65.Ed. Michael Cotsell. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.  
Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. Malcolm Heath. New York: Penguin, 1996.  
Bickerton, Derek. “Prolegomena to a Linguistic Theory of Metaphor.”Linguistic Perspectives on Literature.  
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Black, Max. Models and Metaphors. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1962.  
Brook, G.L. The Language of Dickens. London: André Deutsch, 1970.  
Brooke-Rose, Christine. A Grammar of Metaphor. London: Secker, 1958.  
Gibbs, Raymond W. The Poetics of Mind: Figurative Thought, Language, and Understanding. Cambridge  
and New York: Cambridge UP, 1994.  
Goatly, Andrew. The Language of Metaphors. London: Routledge, 1997.  
Ikeda, Takuro. Eigo Buntairon. Tokyo: Kenkyusha, 1992. 150-165.  
Kincaid, James R. “Laughter and Point of View.”Dickens and the Rhetoric of Laughter. Oxford: Clarendon  
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Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980.  
Meier, Stefanie. Animation and Mechanization in the Novels of Charles Dickens. Bern: Francke, 1982.  
Richards, I.A. The Philosophy of Rhetoric. New York: Oxford UP, 1936.  
Simpson, J.A. and E.S.C. Weiner, eds.The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1989.  
Sommer, Elyse and Dorrie Weiss. Metaphors Dictionary. Detroit: Visible Ink, 2001.  
Sukagawa, Seizo. Eigo Shikisaigo no Imi to Hiyu. Tokyo: Seibido, 1991. 92-112.  
Watanabe, Kiyoshi. “Teni to Inyu ni Kansuru Ichikousatsu.”Bulletin of Graduate School of Education,  
Kyoto University, 57 (2011): 337-349. Available Online at:  
Way, Eileen C. Knowledge Representation and Metaphor. Dordrechit: Kluwer, 1991.  
Dr. Saoko Funada, Lecturer of English Language and Literature, Beppu University, Japan.  
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Appendix Frequency of Dehumanisation of the Main Characters