When we read Dickens (or any nineteenth-century writer), we need to remember this fortunate, productive relationship between the author and the reading public. Despite their strong streak of puritanism and the limitations inherent in their middle-class outlook, Dickens' readers, far from demanding that the author write down to their level, were generally eager to have a book that helped them up to a higher level. They wanted guidance on the issues of the times and they also wanted to "progress" personally by becoming more knowledgeable (about sundry matters) and more skilled in language. Nineteenth-century society considered skill in writing and reading necessary for anyone who aspired to be genteel — or even civilized. In a great many households and throughout the educational system, the promotion of these skills had the power of moral force. In short, a writer in
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presenttense narration, writing great intensity, persistent verbal irony