I offer two articles for your reading pleasure that I feel enhance and add depth to the Sketches and Dickens’s/Boz’s accomplishment.
This article speaks to the nature of the collection itself – “a text so radically hybrid that its only unifying force is Boz” (801) – and explores the strengths and weaknesses of such “an uneasy amalgam of short tales” (802). Coriale argues that because of the very nature of the sketches in terms of their original design and publication, the “miscellany defied any movement toward a linear, narrative progression”. (803) Dickens’s efforts to “impose a narrative structure on writing that was fundamentally resistant to it” (808) by regrouping the sketches with each new edition, ultimately failed to “erase the disruptive effects of the hybridity of ‘Sketches by Boz’ as a whole; rather [he] condensed and magnified those effects” (809), thus creating “a new kind of realism”. (809) “The montage Dickens accidentally produced” as a result “reveal[ed] what was ordinarily invisible to the human eye” and thereby “seemed patently realistic to many contemporary reviewers.” (810 And so, though he failed to actually bring order to the sketches, he did enhance their effect as “Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People”.
“Performance and Control: The Carnivalesque City and Its People in Charles Dickens’s ‘Sketches by Boz’”
by Ian Wilkinson
SPOILER ALERT – this article contains discussion of sketches we have not yet read. Here, in part, is the abstract:
“The essay argues that Dickens uses his sketches to show Londoners at play, when the streets take on a carnivalesque atmosphere and the street characters emerge as strongly delineated types who counter the adversity found in their lives with a resilience that generates comedy and the spirit of the carnival. Through an exploration of Dickens’s portrayal of the popular entertainment offered by the city, the essay shows that . . . the lower middle classes, display an anxiety . . . that leads to their self-exclusion from this carnivalesque world . . . [and] locating Boz’s sympathies with those who feel the force of increasing regulation in their lives.”