Visualizing the Vir Bonus in Charles Dickens's Scenes of Persuasion: The Rhetoric of Pity, Sentiment, Fact, and Debt

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Charles Dickens’s novels are filled with scenes of persuasion—moments of heightened rhetoric. Through
these scenes, the novels present a moral rhetoric and a person that uses this rhetoric toward ethical
ends: a vir bonus. In particular, my study has focused on two separate but related levels of persuasion;
the first remains within the narrative and the second takes into account the level between the text and its
readers. The analysis of A Christmas Carol contends that readers witness the persuasion of Scrooge, a
miser who learns to accept the kairos of Christmastime to become a kind, charitable man. Oliver Tiwst,
this study argues, represents a rhetoric of pity through which both those who are pitied and those who
provide the pity can be saved. This chapter shows that appeals to pathos are particularly effective in this
context. The analysis of Hard Times has found that pity and benevolence no longer function as
straightforward solutions to the problems that the novel stages. Instead, it paints a grim picture of what
happens when the fundamental logos of a society is misguided and when the most powerful rhetoricians
are not ethical. Finally, the analysis of Little Dorrit continues to discuss the issue of dangerous
rhetoricians and highlights in particular the concept of ethos as a valuable way of understanding selffashioning
and fraud. In addition, the analysis of this novel discusses the concepts of debt and credit and
their importance to communities.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Humanities
  • Languages and Literature
  • Specific Literatures


  • Charles Dickens, Fact, Debt, Pity, ethos, logos, pathos, rhetoric, persuasion, kairos, vir bonus
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2019 Sep 28
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-88899-55-2
Electronic ISBNs978-91-88899-56-9
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019 Aug 16
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2019-09-28 Time: 10:00 Place: SOL, H104 External reviewer(s) Name: Dinah Birch Title: Professor Affiliation: University of Liverpool ___

Total downloads

No data available