Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




In Bleak House, Charles Dickens artistically and ironically manipulates language to expose burgeoning socio-political gaps in Victorian times, most notably those that involve people who have access to money, power, food and salvation, and people who do not. Dickens refers to the unlikelihood of two societies from opposite sides of Great Gulfs being brought together and he assists in drawing attention to those gulfs with the language in his novel. Framed within the social mores of his era, Dickens uses the language of phrenology and craniology to satirize the "science" that the English were using to justify their expansionism into "lesser'' intellectually and morally developed parts of the world, most notably Africa. He also uses the trope of cannibalism in terms of consumption in several different ways to illustrate the Great Gulfs between England and Others outside of England, between social classes, between genders, and between the haves and haves not within England. Dickens implies physical and moral consumption through some of his least likeable characters in Bleak House to reflect his Carlylean-influenced ideologies between people who support economic systems and people who attach themselves to the economic base without supporting it. Dickens also parrots many of Carlyle's ideas when he uses the language of servitude and slavery to differentiate the Great Gulfs between a strong work ethic and one that is weak. It is Dickens' language in Bleak House that exposes his disdain for England's expansionism and demonstrates his strong isolationist views that fuels Victorians' bias against England's philanthropic efforts toward others. As a result, Dickens' writing in Bleak House holds some of the most stinging criticism on England's expansionism during his time.