Detailed analysis of ‘In Chancery’ - Sample Essay

The opening paragraph of the given extract is both specific and vague. The very first sentence is specific regarding the location and setting of the story: ‘London, Michealmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor in Lincoln’s Inn Hall’. Yet the passage lacks intimacy as no reason is provided as to why the chancellor is in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Rather the information is presented in a matter of fact voice and it seems rather odd that the author does not expand on the relevance of this fact but moves on to what seems at first glance, a rather insipid topic – the ‘implacable November’ weather.

It later emerges that this is a tactical delay on the part of the author in order to keep us the readers engaged, as much later on in the passage the role of the Chancellor is developed. However, the bad weather is not insignificant but rather symbolic, and completes the author’s use of pathetic fallacy in which the overpowering fog and cold reflects both the corruption of society and the destitution of the city. The author presents his/her views of society in a rather open but subtle manner.

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The intentions of the author become evident through the descriptions of the social hierarchy of that society. Throughout the passage the pervading sense of the divide between the rich and poor never goes away. It becomes apparent the author wants to uncover the injustice and wrongs that many want to remain ignorant about. In the second paragraph the suffering of ordinary common folks is highlighted by the description of the ‘wheezing’ pensioners and the ‘wrathful skipper’ and the cold that ‘cruelly’ pinches ‘the toes and fingers of his shivering little ‘prentice ‘boy’.

That description is a sharp contrast to those residents who have respectable and profitable occupations, for example the Lord High Chancellor and the ‘various solicitors… whom have inherited it from their fathers, who made a fortune by it. ‘ Unlike the hardworking people mentioned in paragraph two, these people who should be working do not have to because they have money and power. They are figures of authority seeing as they feature quite high in the social hierarchy.

It is quite clear that the author does not agree with their abuse of their power. This feeling is demonstrated by exposing the ineffectiveness of the Court, which should be making peoples lives better but instead is surrounded by destruction: ‘decaying houses’, ‘blighted lands’, ‘borrowing and begging’. The very last line: ‘”Suffer any wrong that can be done you, rather than come here! ‘ perfectly encapsulates the substandard law.

It is in this last paragraph that the voice of the author is fully felt, for the disdainful and mocking tone in the words describing the solicitors and chancellor’s apathy is unmistakeable especially in the repeated words ‘ought to be’ – the author seems almost disgusted that they are avoiding their duties. The structure of the narrative is rather simple. Save the evasive first line (which was evidently used to create suspense), information is presented in what seems an orderly and logical manner which makes it relatively easy to follow.

Although it is written in the present tense, which effectively creates a sense of immediacy and clearly helps involve the reader, it is obvious the author is in no hurry to tell the narrative. Rather there is a lot of descriptive writing and little development of the plot which gives one the impression that the story will unfold very slowly. However, that is not to say the writing lacks qualities that is needed for a successful story for here and there the writer tends to disclose some hints and detail about the story.

For example when the author describes the solicitors of the court he mentions they are solicitors ‘in the cause’ which makes the reader ponder about this ’cause’ that the author has decided to not go in to detail about. It seems slightly odd to us the readers that the author is reluctant to disclose anymore detail when in the past he has freely been very descriptive. However, although he doesn’t quite develop these clues it is enough to engage the readers attention as the lack of detail makes us all the more curious about the story and the direction it is to take.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the first chapter is the way the author utilises language. As already mentioned the writer uses pathetic fallacy in order to intensify the atmosphere of the story, but the author also cleverly uses repetition of certain words in order to bring his/her point across strongly. For example the repetition of ‘fog’ throughout the entire passage does not simply serve to remind us of the misery that is hidden in the fog but the fog also represents the eyes of the authority – they are selective in what they choose to see and do (in this case decide to remain oblivious to he state of the town).

It therefore makes sense that the Lord High Chancellor is ‘at the heart of the fog’, since he is clearly at the centre of corruption. The writer retains an air of mystery within his work not only by refusing to disclose everything at once also by constantly reminding us of the ‘fog’, ‘smoke’ and ‘gas’ that the air is suffused with, these words have very dark secretive qualities about them. The repetition and description of the fog, pollution and cold throughout the passage makes the smog all the more vivid in the reader’s minds and because there is no avoiding them on the page they almost become physical.

Additionally alliteration and repetition both combined together is very effective in creating a lasting image in the readers mind: ‘the raw afternoon is rawest…. dense fog is densest and the muddy streets are muddiest… ‘ There is nothing ordinary about these words, they almost seem poetic and therefore are difficult to forget. The author also tends to associate dark and depressing images with the court, clearly emphasising its amorality. These images are usually built up though harsh masculine sounding words such as ‘Gunwales of barges’ etc.

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