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The Aesthetics of Balloon View in Bleak House

Reema Raveendran Nair

School of Letters, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala. Email: reemarnair@gmail.com

 Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.13

Received May 14 07, 2017; Revised July 13, 2017; Accepted July 20, 2017; Published August 10, 2017.

Abstract

Social thinkers on space and place have reiterated that viewing a space/place from a high vantage point involves certain powers and pleasures.  However, there are alternate ways in which the aerial views have been experienced and represented. This article argues that the bird’s-eye-view of London in the opening chapter of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House is an instance of such an alternate representation. While the maps and panoramas of the nineteenth century represented the city as legible and knowable, the hot-air-balloon ascent, a popular form of entertainment in Victorian London, presented the city as obscure and incomprehensible. This very aesthetic of obscurity and incomprehensibility embodied in the balloon view is incorporated in the famous bird’s-eye-view of London in Dickens’ Bleak House. How this obscurity of vision, which is the most defining experience of the city in the novel, extends to the theme of the novel, is also explored in this article.

Keywords: Bird’s-Eye-View, Balloon View, Victorian London, Bleak House.

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