essay on dickin's journey to niagra

3989 Words Oct 31st, 2013 16 Pages
Dickens felt transported by the sublimity of Niagara Falls when he visited it on his 1842 journey to the United States and Canada. In a letter to Forster (26 April 1842), he said of Horseshoe Falls (the Canadian side of Niagara) that "It would be hard for a man to stand nearer God than he does there" (Letters 3: 210). Dickens proceeds to effuse over the beauty and majesty of the falls in a passage that forms the chief part of his description of his experience in American Notes, although the letter actually offers the superior account: There was a bright rainbow at my feet; and from that I looked up to --great Heaven! To what a fall of bright green water! The broad, deep, mighty stream seems to die in the act of falling; and, from …show more content…
It is the never-ending presence of great volumes of spray that leads to the ever-present rainbows in descriptions and paintings of the falls, such as Frederic Church's famous 1857 painting, "Niagara." The rainbows naturally heighten the spiritual effect of the falls as they are the perfect image of a bridge between earth and heaven and are the symbol of God's covenant with man in the flood story in Genesis. They are also a striking conjunction of energy (light) and matter (water particles) and as such are a powerful metaphor for the presence of the divine on earth.

It is the rainbows that seem to move Dickens the most on his second visit to Niagara in 1868, a quarter of a century after his first visit, a trip he took purely for pleasure. As he wrote to Forster on March 16, 1868: The majestic valley below the Falls, so seen through the vast cloud of spray, was made of rainbow. The high banks, the riven rocks, the forests, the bridge, the buildings, the air, the sky, were all made of rainbow. Nothing in Turner's finest water-colour drawings, done in his greatest day, is so ethereal, so imaginative, so gorgeous in colour, as what I then beheld. I seemed to be lifted from the earth and to be looking into Heaven. What I once said to you, as I witnessed the scene five and twenty years ago,

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