A Dickens short describing the interior of a prison, as well as the prisoners. My favorite was the way he depicted the death row inmate who had hours until he. In A Visit to Newgate, Dickens writes about visiting the prison on Newgate. He seems to be amazed how people can walk by the prison every. Prescilla Garland Module: Charles Dickens Title: Assignment 1 – Commentary and Analysis November 11th Word Count: Written by a young Charles .

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. A Visit to Newgate in ‘Sketches by Boz’. The passage is fuelled by emotional intensity, vivid imagery, pathos and a focus on the ever-changing interior mind. It is these literary functions which give the passage it’s authentic and even tragic feel, igniting sympathy as a result. A deeper insight into one of London’s many forgotten citizens, Dickens appears to be attempting to evoke sentiment for his characters as a means of social critique, dickenss he will eventually utilise for the rest of his career.

One of the most viwit characteristics of ‘A Visit to Newgate’ is the description of the prison and it’s doomed inhabitants.

Described as a ‘stone dungeon, eight feet long by six wide’ with a ‘small high window’ allowing minimal light and air to pass through, the prison seems to hark back towards a long forgotten Medieval era.

This, together with it’s dark and claustrophobic demeanour creates a ghostly atmosphere, one of which the prisoner’s must contend with alongside their own personal demons. In fact, it is difficult to distinguish which of the two is more unsettling; Newgate Prison or the prisoners themselves. The three prisoner’s reflect the very same environment which leaves them ‘pinioned’.

Like the decaying and ‘sombre’ walls of the prison, the narrator describes the decaying state of it’s inhabitants.

One of the prisoner’s stares ‘wildly’ at the wall before him, ‘unconsciously intent on counting the chinks’ whilst another stoops over the fire, his head ‘sunk’ upon the mantel-piece. It is through this vivid description of environment, prisoner and mental state which solidifies an unnerving tension through the passage and a grim insight into the reality of Newgate prison. One of the most integral and engaging characteristics of ‘A Visit to Newgate’ is the use of pathos.


“A Visit to Newgate”

Dickens emerging ideas of social injustice and critique, particularly for London’s forgotten citizens are evident through his sympathetic treatment of the criminals within this passage. Written in a report form, the narrator continuously makes keen observations, writing in the third person ‘we’ and ‘he’ to engage and create a sense of authenticity.

However, this report form transforms into what could be called a psychological narrative as narrator and prisoner become one. By incorporating this technique with pathos, Dickens is able to construct a realistic image of a man, moments before his death. The narrator begins to speak for the prisoner as a shift in tone is evident; upon the prisoner’s decision to try and read the Bible to distract his mind, the narrator speaks his mind for him ‘No: This active form of thinking and decision making gives the passage an authentic feel.

Charles Dickens “A Visit To Newgate”

Dickens utilises this concept even further through the flashback and dream moments. The prisoner reflects on childhood after coming across a Bible which ignites what we could now call a stream of consciousness within the passage.

The narrator transforms from narrator, to prisoner to child as the ‘voice of the clergyman’ and ‘the very boys he played with crowd as vividly before him as if they were scenes of yesterday’. An interjection of reality by the sound of a clock puts a halt to his thoughts and he ‘buries his face in his hands’. This nostalgic technique is again evident when the prisoner dreams of his beloved after falling asleep in the ‘same unsettled state of mind’ which ‘pursues’.

In the face of death, he is thinking of his final moments of life rapidly as the clock literally counts down ‘Six hours left. Repentance for eight times six years of guilt and sin! It is temporary bliss for both he and readers as she looks up to ‘his face with tenderness and affection’. Dickens appeals through the idea of pathos and repentance as the prisoner begins to ‘fall on his knees before her and fervently beseech es her pardon’.


The climactic feel of the passage and intensity of emotions only grows as the dream is quickly replaced by reality and a new found sense of heroism ‘Verdict, ‘Guilty’. No matter; he will escape’ which, once again, is interrupted by his doomed fate for a third and final time.

After multiple attempts of mentally escaping his condition, the prisoner knows that everything is ‘too frightfully real to admit of doubt or mistake’. Even though the prisoner has repented, he did wrong and must proceed with the consequences of his actions as a ‘felon’. Like the prisoner, we too are dickeens back from this momentary sentimentalism as the passage ends on a grim and hard-hitting note ‘two hours more will be dead’.

A Visit to Newgate

Dickens successfully uses pathos to ignite sympathy and feeling for his characters by giving insight into his interior mind through the function of the narrator. Through the use of vivid imagery, pathos and a focus on the ever-changing mind, Dickens is able to ignite sentiment and sympathy for his characters.

Dicjens mental transition from narrator to prisoner, together with the reporting form gives the passage an authentic and active feel and the newgatf psychological deterioration as a result of his impending doom makes the character a sense of endearing truth. By allowing a space for regret and repentance, Dickens may be making a social critique; that even London’s ‘forgotten’ citizen’s the underclass newgahe.

It is a powerful technique which, to this day, remains as Dicken’s legacy. Remember me on this computer.

Sketches by Boz, by Charles Dickens : chapter32

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