Hyperbole

Oliver Twist

by

Charles Dickens

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Oliver Twist: Hyperbole 1 key example

Definition of Hyperbole
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements are usually quite obvious exaggerations intended to emphasize a point... read full definition
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements are usually quite obvious exaggerations... read full definition
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which a writer or speaker exaggerates for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbolic statements... read full definition
Chapter 29
Explanation and Analysis—Angelic Rose:

The narrator sometimes uses hyperbole to impress a point upon the reader. For example, in Chapter 50, the narrator uses hyperbole to describe Sikes:

Crackit went down to the door [of the safehouse], and returned followed by a man with the lower part of his face buried in a handkerchief, and another tied over his head under his hat. He drew them slowly off—blanched face, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, beard of three days' growth, wasted flesh, short thick breath; it was the very ghost of Sikes.

Sikes is not literally a ghost. Far-fetched events are possible in the universe of the novel, but supernatural occurrences are not. By claiming that Sikes is a ghost, the narrator helps the reader see and feel what Crackit is seeing and feeling. Sikes has been so deeply affected by his murder of Nancy and by his run from the law that he no longer looks like himself. The exaggerated notion that he not only resembles a ghost but actually is one in this scene foreshadows that his actual death is soon to come. In fact, it suggests that he is already as good as dead and that his fate was sealed when he murdered Nancy.

Sikes is not the only character who is described as a supernatural being in order to emphasize something about them. Rose Maylie is frequently compared to an angel, and there are moments where the narrator briefly gives the impossible impression that she actually is an angel. For example, in Chapter 29, the narrator gets carried away describing Rose for the first time:

[E]arth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye and was stamped upon her noble head, seemed scarcely of her age or of the world, and yet the changing expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights that played about the face and left no shadow there; above all, the smile—the cheerful happy smile—were entwined with the best sympathies and affections of our nature.

At first, the narrator is simply comparing Rose to an angel: she "seemed" otherworldly. But as the description goes on, the narrator describes "the thousand lights that played about the face and left no shadow there." Rose's face cannot literally be lit up by a thousand shadowless lights. The narrator describes these lights as supernatural characteristics that she somehow brings to life on earth, "entwining" angelic and human nature.

Rose's angelic appearance makes her mysterious illness more suspenseful, convincing Harry Maylie that she is likely to die because she is not meant for earthly existence. Harry explains this to a recovered Rose in Chapter 35:

"An angel," continued the young man passionately, "a creature as fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels, fluttered between life and death."

Again, the description slides back and forth between hyperbole (Harry calls Rose an actual angel) and simple comparison (Harry uses a simile to call Rose "as fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels"). What other kind of angels are there? His trouble keeping a clear distinction between Rose and "God's own angels" exaggerates Rose's perfection. Victorian readers would have been familiar with the trope of the gothic heroine as a perfect near-angel with fragile health, poised on the brink of death because she is too good for this world. The exaggerated notion that Rose is an angel thus signals that she is the heroine of the novel and that Oliver is safe with her.

Chapter 35
Explanation and Analysis—Angelic Rose:

The narrator sometimes uses hyperbole to impress a point upon the reader. For example, in Chapter 50, the narrator uses hyperbole to describe Sikes:

Crackit went down to the door [of the safehouse], and returned followed by a man with the lower part of his face buried in a handkerchief, and another tied over his head under his hat. He drew them slowly off—blanched face, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, beard of three days' growth, wasted flesh, short thick breath; it was the very ghost of Sikes.

Sikes is not literally a ghost. Far-fetched events are possible in the universe of the novel, but supernatural occurrences are not. By claiming that Sikes is a ghost, the narrator helps the reader see and feel what Crackit is seeing and feeling. Sikes has been so deeply affected by his murder of Nancy and by his run from the law that he no longer looks like himself. The exaggerated notion that he not only resembles a ghost but actually is one in this scene foreshadows that his actual death is soon to come. In fact, it suggests that he is already as good as dead and that his fate was sealed when he murdered Nancy.

Sikes is not the only character who is described as a supernatural being in order to emphasize something about them. Rose Maylie is frequently compared to an angel, and there are moments where the narrator briefly gives the impossible impression that she actually is an angel. For example, in Chapter 29, the narrator gets carried away describing Rose for the first time:

[E]arth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye and was stamped upon her noble head, seemed scarcely of her age or of the world, and yet the changing expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights that played about the face and left no shadow there; above all, the smile—the cheerful happy smile—were entwined with the best sympathies and affections of our nature.

At first, the narrator is simply comparing Rose to an angel: she "seemed" otherworldly. But as the description goes on, the narrator describes "the thousand lights that played about the face and left no shadow there." Rose's face cannot literally be lit up by a thousand shadowless lights. The narrator describes these lights as supernatural characteristics that she somehow brings to life on earth, "entwining" angelic and human nature.

Rose's angelic appearance makes her mysterious illness more suspenseful, convincing Harry Maylie that she is likely to die because she is not meant for earthly existence. Harry explains this to a recovered Rose in Chapter 35:

"An angel," continued the young man passionately, "a creature as fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels, fluttered between life and death."

Again, the description slides back and forth between hyperbole (Harry calls Rose an actual angel) and simple comparison (Harry uses a simile to call Rose "as fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels"). What other kind of angels are there? His trouble keeping a clear distinction between Rose and "God's own angels" exaggerates Rose's perfection. Victorian readers would have been familiar with the trope of the gothic heroine as a perfect near-angel with fragile health, poised on the brink of death because she is too good for this world. The exaggerated notion that Rose is an angel thus signals that she is the heroine of the novel and that Oliver is safe with her.

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Chapter 50
Explanation and Analysis—Angelic Rose:

The narrator sometimes uses hyperbole to impress a point upon the reader. For example, in Chapter 50, the narrator uses hyperbole to describe Sikes:

Crackit went down to the door [of the safehouse], and returned followed by a man with the lower part of his face buried in a handkerchief, and another tied over his head under his hat. He drew them slowly off—blanched face, sunken eyes, hollow cheeks, beard of three days' growth, wasted flesh, short thick breath; it was the very ghost of Sikes.

Sikes is not literally a ghost. Far-fetched events are possible in the universe of the novel, but supernatural occurrences are not. By claiming that Sikes is a ghost, the narrator helps the reader see and feel what Crackit is seeing and feeling. Sikes has been so deeply affected by his murder of Nancy and by his run from the law that he no longer looks like himself. The exaggerated notion that he not only resembles a ghost but actually is one in this scene foreshadows that his actual death is soon to come. In fact, it suggests that he is already as good as dead and that his fate was sealed when he murdered Nancy.

Sikes is not the only character who is described as a supernatural being in order to emphasize something about them. Rose Maylie is frequently compared to an angel, and there are moments where the narrator briefly gives the impossible impression that she actually is an angel. For example, in Chapter 29, the narrator gets carried away describing Rose for the first time:

[E]arth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye and was stamped upon her noble head, seemed scarcely of her age or of the world, and yet the changing expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights that played about the face and left no shadow there; above all, the smile—the cheerful happy smile—were entwined with the best sympathies and affections of our nature.

At first, the narrator is simply comparing Rose to an angel: she "seemed" otherworldly. But as the description goes on, the narrator describes "the thousand lights that played about the face and left no shadow there." Rose's face cannot literally be lit up by a thousand shadowless lights. The narrator describes these lights as supernatural characteristics that she somehow brings to life on earth, "entwining" angelic and human nature.

Rose's angelic appearance makes her mysterious illness more suspenseful, convincing Harry Maylie that she is likely to die because she is not meant for earthly existence. Harry explains this to a recovered Rose in Chapter 35:

"An angel," continued the young man passionately, "a creature as fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels, fluttered between life and death."

Again, the description slides back and forth between hyperbole (Harry calls Rose an actual angel) and simple comparison (Harry uses a simile to call Rose "as fair and innocent of guile as one of God's own angels"). What other kind of angels are there? His trouble keeping a clear distinction between Rose and "God's own angels" exaggerates Rose's perfection. Victorian readers would have been familiar with the trope of the gothic heroine as a perfect near-angel with fragile health, poised on the brink of death because she is too good for this world. The exaggerated notion that Rose is an angel thus signals that she is the heroine of the novel and that Oliver is safe with her.

Unlock with LitCharts A+