By S. Thornton
From 1830 to 1870 advertisements introduced in its wake a brand new realizing of the way the topic learn and the way language operated. Sara Thornton provides a vital second in print tradition, the early acceptance of what we now name a 'virtual' international, and proposes new readings of key texts through Dickens and Balzac.
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Additional info for Advertising, Subjectivity and the Nineteenth-Century Novel: Dickens, Balzac and the Language of the Walls
To read the slogan is to be bottled or casked yourself in a certain place in the sentence, ready for sale. The joke is a means by which the unthinkable is thought, by which new realities might come into being: we need only consider E. S. 79 Thus does the virtual, the written, allow the advent of new social mechanisms: in this case that people are to be packaged henceforth like goods, to be marshalled, to be separated from their loved ones, to lose their identity, and be placed in groupings according to age and sex, branded and dispatched.
The strangeness of the cartoon, its dreamlike quality (a perfect example of a rebus which might be interpreted back into a coherent sentence), is perhaps less arbitrary than one might at first think. The way the cartoonist has chosen to interpret the advertising slogan is to give it a violent twist. The people figured here are prisoners of their receptacles, some crying and lamenting, others being squashed and reduced so that they will fit into the bottles. The woman waving goodbye is to be separated from her husband or father.
These are confined people, powerless commodities to be sold on the market. In the last analysis it is, of course, just a joke. But the act of joking tells us certain things. The joke of course is in the sudden absurdity of the vision that a quite ordinary sentence can throw up if read outside the intentions of the author (who merely wishes to sell casks and bottles to families), and not in the political reading of that absurdity; Punch readers were obviously not meant to receive a political message from the cartoon.