Great Expectations is a novel written by Charles Dickens in 1861. The novel follows the life of young Pip through his childhood to his dreams of becoming a gentleman. At the beginning of the novel Pip is an orphan who lives with his sister Mrs. Joe and her husband Joe. Great Expectations deals with issues such as social class, love, expectations, and sympathy throughout the novel. Dickens creates sympathy from the beginning of the novel when Pip is approached by a wanted criminal whilst he was mourning his parents’ deaths in the churchyard. Magwitch threatens Pip for his life to bring him a rasp and some food. Pip steals them from Mr. Joe to give to Magwitch and after giving them to Magwitch, scared Pip runs home. Later he is invited to play at Miss Havisham’s house that is known to be rich and she was also rejected on her wedding day. Pip then falls in love with Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter Estella, who has been brought up to brake men’s hearts, but Pip finds Estella very proud, pretty and also insulting. Throughout this assignment I am going to explore and explain the techniques Dickens uses to engage the sympathy of the reader.
Dickens creates a setting which is tense, Gothic and daunting when Pip first encounters with Miss Havisham inside the house. An example of this, “…large room, well lighted with wax candles.” This shows that the room has lost its soul and spirit and Pip is nervy because it reminds him of the day he visited his parent’s graves on Christmas Eve and first encounters with the escaped convict, Magwitch. There is also a contrast between the size of the room and the size of Pip. The house wasn’t daunting because of the wax candles in fact, candles in a dark room make the room look beautiful, and it was when Pip went close up to the house that Pip felt scared because he could then see the cobwebs and rats and spider that the house had developed. Candles normally represent a holy, calm and religious place. The readers will continue to feel sympathetic towards Pip because Pip is not in an environment which he is familiar with and at this stage Pip is seen as to be vulnerable. In the example it says “…well lighted with candles.” This shows that the whole house must be lighted with candles and the house has not seen daylight. It gives the reader the impression that the house must not have any windows or they have just been boarded up to stop the light from coming into the house.
Charles shows sympathy towards Pip through the eccentric character of Miss Havisham. The evidence for this is “…dressed in rich materials – satins and lace and silks – all of white.” This shows that Miss Havisham is rich and a bit strange at the same time because people do not wear these kinds of materials every day. There is also a contrast between Pip and Miss Havisham for the clothes they wear. Pip was dressed in his best clothes which consist of ripped trousers, an old hat, a scarf, a dirty baggy jacket and a pair of horrendous ripped shoes. Whereas Miss Havisham was dressed in a wealthy, ravishing white dress with glistening gold and silver jewellery and a pair of old yet beautiful white shoes. This showed the divide between the social classes. Miss Havisham’s dress is then described as faded yellow and lost its lustre the faded also has a double meaning of her dreams of getting married has also faded away along with her dress. Pip would not have been used to all the luxury in the house. Charles also repeats the word “white” to show what it used to be like in the past and how time has faded with the dress.
Charles uses different ranges of vocabulary for each of the characters. Miss Havisham’s vocabulary used is very patronising, demanding and abrupt. She uses imperative verbs. An example of this would be, “Play…Tell…Go…” This shows that Miss Havisham has to command people to get her point across to them. She feels for only herself and does not care about Pips feelings. Estella’s use of vocabulary is very supreme. Evidence for this is, “Common labouring boy.” This shows that she is well educated and this shows the difference of the social classes, Pip is also a similar age to Estella. Estella acts as if she is an adult. She purposely insults Pip and also puts him under pressure to lower his self esteem. Pips use of vocabulary towards others is polite. For example, “Yes ma’am…” This shows that Pip’s use of vocabulary is very limited because he has not been educated as well as Estella and Miss Havisham. Pip still knows his respectful manners even when he has been put under pressure or if he is being insulted.
Dickens’ use of Pip as the narrator is very significant to the telling of the story. We are able to see the progression of Pip as he grows up and his views on the characters in the book. We form an idea about someone from their outward appearance, so having Pip as a narrator it creates a one-sided view about a character because we only see the world from Pip’s eyes and we feel most strongly what Pip is feeling and we feel, about other character what Pip feels about them. It also shows the realistic side of the novel and creates an image by having Pip as the narrator. Dickens creates sympathy by telling the reader that Pip has never seen his mother & father, instead he sits on their graves trying to find clues that reflect their appearance and personality.