Q. Compare and contrast how these authors use language to depict the murder scenes in their novels.
In both novels there is a big difference between both murder scenes. The reason for these differences is that the two novels were written in two different centuries. Charles Dickens wrote his novel in the 19th century and was brutally honest about what life was like in the 19th century London, even if it was not to the higher classed peoples tastes. Dickens grew up in poverty and used his past experiences to help write his novel. He also used his past experiences of living in poverty to write his novel in great detail.
The 19th century readers believed strongly in differences in classes. References to God were not uncommon in the Victorian times, but now modern authors have to be very careful about what they put into their books as to not upset the general public. The language used in Dickens’ novel is very complicated and complex, this is due to the fact that only a few could read in the Victorian times and those who could, could do it well.
John Steinbecks novel ‘Of Mice And Men’ was different to Oliver Twist. It was written in the 20th century America and was written for lonely men who would travel all over America looking for work.
In the murder scene of Oliver Twist we are well prepared for the murder of Nancy. Dickens presents the murder to be premeditated and the suspense is quickly built up over a short period of time. If we look at the conversation between Bill and Fagin we can see that the murder is planned and the conversation is focused around it. Fagin says to Bill “Don’t be-too-violent Bill?” which tells us that the murder of Nancy will be bloody and violent. Also ‘There was fire in the eyes of both’ actually shows us that both men are angry, this gives us another clue that there is going to be a murder taking place in the near future. When Sikes is walking down the street towards Nancy’s house he does not move his eyes or look at his surroundings, he is overcome with anger. The scene is very dark and almost scary.
There is almost a completely different atmosphere in Steinbeck’s novel. The scene is warm and light, instead of the cold dark scene in Oliver Twist. The mood in the book is a happy one, with the men outside the barn playing horseshoes. We are not prepared at all for any type of murder, well at least not in the same way that we are prepared in Dickens novel. We see Lennie as a friendly giant and not as a threat, because of this we do not expect any violent behaviour to come from him. We don’t judge Lennie like a normal man because he has the mental age of a child. Also Curly’s wife is portrayed as an innocent young woman who has done nothing wrong and is very gullible. She also appears to be very flirtatious and craves the attention of over men.
We are supposed to view Curly’s wife in a sympathetic way. “I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.” Creates a sympathetic picture of Curly’s wife and makes us see her in a different way, we now see her as a poor woman who is forbidden by her husband to talk to other men.
Nancy on the other hand is not portrayed as innocently as Curly’s wife. Although she is not considered a bad person, she does not such an innocent background. During Nancy’s murder we feel great sympathy for her because even though she is being attacked by Bill she still loves him and tries to calm him down “I – I won’t scream or cry – not once – hear me – speak to me – tell me what I have done!”. Throughout the whole murder scene Nancy is constantly trying to keep Bill from murdering her by saying phrases such as “Bill, dear Bill, you cannot have the heart to kill me. Oh! Think of all that I have given up, only this one night, for you.
You shall have time to think, and save yourself from this crime; I will not loose my hold, you cannot throw me off, Bill, Bill, for dear God’s sake, for your own, for mine, stop before you spill my blood! I have been true to you, upon my guilty soul I have!”. That sentence shows us that Nancy believes passionately that she has done nothing wrong and that she is trying desperately to stop the murderous Bill from hurting her. Nancy does a few more pleas with much the same content, still trying to stop Sikes from killing her. We really do feel bad for Nancy when she does finally get murdered.
I suppose in a few ways the two women are quite the same. They both have to work really hard, either doing a job like Nancy, or doing the housework like Curly’s wife. Also both women do not have a very good social life, especially Curly’s wife who has absolutely no social life at all and is forbidden to talk to anyone but Curly. In both the novels we feel deep sympathy for both women because they both seem innocent and are killed in unfair ways.
In the murder of Curly’s wife, she is not the only person we feel sorry for. Lennie is also portrayed in a sympathetic light due to his child like behaviour. Lennie gets scared when Curly’s wife comes in and starts talking to him, so he starts repeating phrases such as “Well, he said if I done any more bad things he ain’t gonna let me tend the rabbits.” Which makes us feel sorry for Lennie because he does not want to be in this awkward position. We are constantly being reminded that Lennie has the mind of a child, like when Lennie is constantly going on about tending the rabbits. During the murder of Curly’s wife we feel sorry for both Curly’s wife and Lennie.
We feel sorry for Curly’s wife because she had done nothing wrong and was trying to be nice to Lennie but just got herself into a bit of trouble. But we also feel sorry for Lennie because while he is unintentionally killing Curly’s wife he is crying and telling her to stop. After Lennie has killed Curly’s wife he is still only worried about being able to tend the rabbits and whether or not he is going to get in trouble with George. Lennie does not see the difference between killing a dog and killing a person.
In Charles Dickens novel, Bill Sikes is described in quite a different way from Lennie. Sikes was not like Lennie, Sikes meant to kill Nancy and did it out of cold-blooded anger. Dickens tried to influence the readers to think that Sikes was an evil man. He did this by using comments that show his brute force and anger such as ‘The murderer staggered backward to the wall, shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down’. This shows how Sikes was a cold-blooded murderer and makes the readers think so.
The scenes of the murders are in two completely different places. ‘Of Mice And Men’ was set in 20th century America, in the daytime, and in a nice warm barn. ‘Oliver Twist’ was set in 19th century London, at night, in a cold dark house. The two settings could not be more different.
In the ‘Of Mice And Men’ murder scene, Steinbeck concentrates less on the actual murder but all the surrounding and the conversation, between Lennie and Curly’s wife, involved. Steinbeck describes the sights and sounds in detail compared with ‘Oliver Twist’. Charles Dickens uses much more aggressive language compared to Steinbeck, the murder is also much more gruesome.
‘and he beat it twice with all the force he could summon, upon the upturned face that almost touched his own.’ Is just one of the examples of the type of aggressive language that Dickens used.
After each murder each writer does a different thing that influences the way the reader perceives each character. In ‘Of Mice And Men’ after Curly’s wife had been murdered the writer no longer concentrates on Lennie but the dead body of Curly’s wife. Steinbeck describes every detail in the room and tells the reader about how the world suddenly becomes quiet ‘It was very quiet in the barn, and the quiet of the afternoon was on the ranch. Even the clang of the pitched shoes, even the voices of the men in the game seemed to grow more quiet.’
In Dickens’ novel the focus of the story remains on Bill Sikes after he has killed Nancy and how he deals with the situation. Dickens also pays attention to the surroundings of Sikes, he carefully describes the room he is in and the lighting. Sikes tries to stop the light of the sun entering the room because he thinks that the light of the sun will discover his horrible secret. Sikes is in a state of shock and starts to imagine things. He imagines that the eyes inside Nancy’s head stared at him while he was trying to dispose of the body.
Because both novels were written in different times and places, obviously they are very different.