Charles Dickens is the author of “Great Expectations” and he was born in eighteen twelve in Portsmouth. His family were great inspiration for the characters in his books as the character Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield was based on his father. All of Dickens book were very similar in the fact that they were all about lower class people. This shows that Dickens felt empathy towards them. Dickens could relate to this as his family were quite poor.
“Great Expectations” was first published serially in magazines in eighteen sixty. The novel is suitable for Victorian audiences because they could relate to the content of the novel, for example, the standard of living; the fact that women were seen as less important than men and Pips lifestyle. Dickens uses personal pronouns like, My, I and We, which makes the reader feel more involved in the story and they can imagine what it would have been like for the characters.
The novel opens in the marsh country of England, wet and dispiriting, where young Pip, the protagonist, stands alone in a churchyard before seven gravestones, under which are buried his mother, father and five younger brothers. While Pip is standing in the graveyard a convict comes out from behind gravestones and questions him for food. The convict is a ragged looking man with an iron shackle on his leg which creates tension because it could be interpreted that he is a convict. This is a fast chain of events, which creates suspense.
Opening chapters are very important because they set the scene. Pip is in a graveyard at the beginning of the opening chapter, which immediately thrusts an atmosphere of death upon the reader therefore creating an unpleasant and dispiriting atmosphere.
The title “Great Expectations” gives a commendable impression about the novel. “Great” is a positive adjective which gives a optimistic feeling about the novel. “Expectations” are hopes that something will happen, so “Great Expectations” are great hopes for the novel. The title is a juxtaposition of the first chapter as there is no “Great Expectations.”
Dickens uses a multitude of techniques to create mood and atmosphere and numerous examples of these are in the first chapter. Mood is the state of a person’s feelings or temper and atmosphere is the surrounding feeling. These are important in a novel as it makes the writing more gratifying.
Pip has never seen his mother or father, “As I never saw any likeness of them either.” Pip had to draw conclusions from the descriptions on their gravestones,” derived from their tombstones.” You feel empathy towards Pip as he still has love for his mother and father.
A technique that Dickens expends is describing the setting at the beginning of the chapter. That graveyard at the start of the chapter is a typical example of how the setting contributes to the novel because in order to capture the reader’s imagination the description must be able to paint a picture in your head. Dickens describes the graveyard as a, “bleak place overgrown with nettles.” The use of the word “bleak” creates atmosphere as it makes the place sound cold and unwelcoming.
To follow on from this, Dickens uses alliteration to describe the setting, “low, leaden line.” This is used to describe the river on the marshland. “leaden” means lead coloured or dull and heavy, which suggests the river was dull and lead-coloured. This creates a sombre atmosphere.
Dickens leaves the first piece of dialogue until after the description, which builds up suspense. “Hold your noise,” is the first piece of dialogue and the reader does not know who said it. This creates tension and an unpleasant atmosphere.
Dickens skilfully creates a displeasing atmosphere by creating an exceedingly fast pace when describing the convict. The description puts a picture in your head, “soaked in water and smothered in mud, lamed by stones.” This creates a dismal atmosphere because you feel sympathy for him even though he is portrayed as a wicked man. The convict is meant to terrify the reader so Dickens describes him as a “fearful man”.
A different technique Dickens uses is describing how the character speaks, “I pleaded in terror,” This describes the way Pip converses when he meets the convict. You feel empathy toward Pip, as we know he is terrified. This changes the mood of the reader to being worried about Pip
When Pip is speaking to the convict he is still polite, “Sir”. He uses polite language even though he is terrified. This shows that Pip respects older people than himself. You feel empathy for Pip at this moment in the novel. This creates a
Another technique Dickens uses is pathetic fallacy, which is the treatment of inanimate objects as if they had human feelings. An example of this is, “And the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and black lines intermixed” The weather is reflected in Pips mood, meaning that Pip is angry. Red and black are very negative colours, normally referring to anger or death. Pip still hasn’t got over the death of his parents or siblings so that is why the sky is black. The imagery makes you feel empathy toward Pip.
Another technique Dickens uses is leaving the first piece of dialogue until the description is over, the first piece of dialogue is, “Hold your noise!” We don’t know who says this until Dickens describes the character. Dickens also describes how the character spoke, in this case it says, “cried a terrible voice.” This creates an unpleasant atmosphere.
Dickens creates a vexatious atmosphere by creating a fast pace when Pip meets the convict. The description of the convict is very fast paced and puts a picture in your head which creates atmosphere, “soaked in water, smothered in mud and lamed by stones.”
“for he was so sudden and strong,” this shows that the convict is a powerful character in this part of the story.
Dickens describes scenes in great detail so you can picture it, “he looked in my young eyes as if he were eluding the hands of dead people, stretching up cautiously out of the graves, to get a twist upon his ankle and pull him in.” This description creates mood because you can picture it in your head. You can also imagine how Pip is feeling with this description in his head.