Charles Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ Book Essay Sample

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In the novel, ‘Great Expectations’, Chapter 1 and Chapter 39 are both descriptions of the encounters the main character, Pip and Magwitch, the convict had together. Chapter 1 came at the beginning of the first volume, with Chapter 39 coming at the end of the second volume. The two chapters both had key similarities and important differences.

In the first chapter, Pip was alone on the bleak and inhospitable marshes; the wind was cold and violent and created a threatening and frightening mood for both Pip and the reader. The atmosphere of being in a graveyard, which can be associated with isolation and a lot of the time depression, made Pip feel alone and scared and made him ‘begin to cry’. But the atmosphere in Chapter 39 is echoed by Chapter 1, the weather was very much similar, outside it was story and raining. These combined to again create a terrified effect within the characters. But even though Pip was inside in Chapter 39, he still felt as unaccompanied and exposed to the weather as he was in Chapter 1. This was because the flat was just as isolated and claustrophobic and depressing as the graveyard was.

In Chapter 39, Pip’s circumstances changed considerably. He was a young gentleman, living in London and with a new life ahead of him. Whereas in Chapter 1, Pip was a young, poor boy who lived with his sister and her husband, Joe Gargery. In Chapter 1, when Pip was alone at his parent’s graves, the convict sprung upon Pip without a word of warning and began to interrogate him. At this time, the convict was presented as ‘a man without a hat’; in Victorian times this obviously meant that Magwitch was not a gentleman. As the story was in first person this must mean that Pip was the narrator. In this section of the chapter, Pip then described the criminal as ‘terrifying’ and ‘threatening’. But some factors change in Chapter 39. By now when the convict returned, he as dressed differently. Strangely enough, he was dressed much more sophisticatedly with a hat, which proved that his fortunes had changed for the better but more importantly that he had become a proper gentleman. To support this, Magwitch was able to communicate in a more upper class voice than compared to Chapter 1 when he was very much rude and impolite.

The convict had complete power over Pip and the argument in the first Chapter. He was able to give out orders and commands instead of asking questions and queries. This can be backed up by quotes such as ‘Tell us your name’ and ‘Show us where you live’. Finally Pip was still polite to Magwitch despite the fact he was cross-examining and bullying Pip. I think this was because Pip was so frightened by the criminal that he felt all he could do was to cooperate with Magwitch and hope that the ordeal would be over soon. But in terms of dialogue in Chapter 39, Pip took full domination of the talking. This meant Magwitch was not able to have a word in the conversation until near the end. And as both Pip and Magwitch were now men, the exchange was able to last for much longer than Chapter 1 because in Chapter 1 there were mostly only short and sharp commands.

When Pip found out who Magwitch was when he let him into his house in Chapter 39, he was not at all happy to see him and tried to push him away. He kept on trying to keep his distance by saying phrases such as ‘Stay!’ and ‘Keep away’. I think this meant that Pip was still haunted by that event in Chapter 1 and was still afraid of the former convict. When Magwitch tells Pip that he has been his benefactor for most of his life, he was still not being that polite to Magwitch, which I think showed how snobbish and ungrateful he had become now he had a comfortable lifestyle. From the fact that Magwitch had given most of his hard earned money to assist Pip in a better life, showed that he never forgot how Pip helped him and was honest to him back in Chapter 1. I think this proves that Magwitch was very honourable and demonstrated that he had mended his former life as a criminal. Dickens obviously wanted the reader to full appreciate and respect Magwitch after what had done in the past and how he had changed his life around. But he was still honest in Chapter 1 when he was the runaway villain. When he had to explain how he came across the food and vile, he told Joe, who was the blacksmith and Pip’s brother-in-law, that he stole it all from the home instead of saying Pip had taken them to help the convict.

The two chapters have many differences and similarities which are shown through Dickens’s message to the readers and through the portraying of the characters. In the case of Pip, he questioned his roots and identity. Pip became a snob and gentlemen because of the thought that his benefactor was the wealthy Miss Havesham, but it tuned out to be the convict, Magwitch. Dickens showed this best through the development of Pip. He was a young, na�ve and generous boy in Chapter 1, but then turned into an obnoxious snob in Chapter 39, all because of the money and the fact his status had changed in the community. In conclusion the two chapters show the confrontations of both Pip and Magwitch and provide a different feeling and message within.

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