Explore Dickens’ Success in Presenting Characters through a Symbolic Use of Place Essay Sample

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Great Expectations was written by Charles Dickens in 1861 and was set in the Victorian times. This is very evident from the choice of language, characterization, style of writing and the storyline also shows this. Also the novel was a serial publication, this means that the story was published in several parts, perhaps week by week. It is very obvious that Dickens uses the novel to express his views on Victorian society.

The main characters are Pip, Magwitch, Miss Havisham, Jaggers and Wemmick. The novel is about an orphan boy named Pip, who has lost all hiss family except his wicked sister and her caring husband Joe Gargery, the blacksmith. The novel follows Pip’s troubled life and how he succeeds his Great Expectations in going to London and fulfilling his ambition of becoming a gentleman. The message of the novel is that Dickens is trying to portray his views on how he feels money is not everything and don’t try to be who you are not or want to be.

When we first meet Magwitch in the churchyard, it seems to present a symbol of death because this is where dead people are laid to rest. This is a very daunting place for a young boy to be exploring. ‘Dark flat wilderness’, this shows the threatening atmosphere evoked on young Pip, he obviously was very intimidated by his surroundings and this is also shown by his language and tone of voice when speaking to Magwitch. ‘O! Don’t cut my throat, sir’ pleading in terror, Pip is not afraid to show his petrified self. Magwitch is very similar to the atmosphere and his surroundings, he is a dark and wild character. We know this because of the descriptions given in the extracts- ‘A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg’, this shows that Magwitch is terrifying, rough and chained up as if he were ready to escape and cause chaos. However we do know that the description is misleading because later on in the story he does show his kindness and generosity.

The marshes evoke a threatening and daunting atmosphere which coincides with Magwitch’s presence and the sinister manner of Magwitch to portray more fear and threat.

The ravenous way Magwitch eats is frightening to Pip but his hunger invokes sympathy in us because we can relate to his hard life.

The threatening weather when Magwitch goes to London to see Pip reflects Magwitch’s usual nature, however he knows has a new found fondness towards Pip. ‘It was wretched weather, stormy and wet, mud,mud,mud’ this reflects Magwitch’s hardened body and tainted mind, it was dirty and troubled.

Miss Havisham and Satis House are two similar things. Both are in a state of decay and have not changed since her wedding day. The irony of Satis House is that it mirrors Miss Havisham’s state of mind, in the way that it has not changed, it is decaying, gloomy and depressing. ‘Empty and distressed’, ‘no glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it, ‘covered with dust and mould’ this shows that Satis House was in a disgusting state and when Pip and Miss Havisham enter the dining room we are revealed the extent of how bad the house is. Also we know that Miss Havisham used to be a bright, beautiful young lady and her house was very well kept to. ‘Used to be pretty and so was she’.

The physical descriptions of Miss Havisham closely relate to death and nightmares and how she has given up in life. ‘Not finished dressing’, ‘no brightness’. This shows her negative reflection on her life and how she has nothing to live for.

Miss Havisham hasn’t left the house since her wedding day, she has locked away her heart and trained Estella to do the same. This shows Miss Havisham’s mind is barred and empty. There is no daylight in her life and this is symbolized by her house’s dark passages which reflect her character and mood. ‘Passages were all dark’, ‘It was dark and only the candle lighted us’, perhaps that candle is the only thing bringing light to her life with Estella and Pip. They are keeping her from completely shutting out her life.

When Pip goes to London the first images he sees are pigs being brutally slaughtered at the pig market. It is grey, costaphobic, daunting and gloomy. ‘Lighted by skylight only’, London was a depressing place. The realization of Jaggers rudeness to the beggars is very apparent and just as the click in Magwitch’s throat is his trademark the smell of soap is Jagger’s. He is obsessive about washing away the corruption he deals with in his capacity as a lawyer.

Jaggers is a powerful, frightening figure ‘Is a burly man of an exceedingly dark complexion’

Mr Jaggers room was an oppressive place, it mirrors his life as a powerful and corrupt lawyer, who was rich and chose to work in such sordid conditions. ‘Dismal atmosphere’ reflects his mood as he was a dull yet firm character. A sword in his room mirrors his sharp brain and a rusty pistol shows his old exterior yet is still a working part.

Jaggers works with sordid commands, and this is mirrored by his surrounding offices, Newgate Prison and Smithfield Markets. They are unpleasant glooming and disturbing places ‘neglected’ ‘ugly disorderly, depressing’ show what both Smithfield and Newgate Prison were like.

Jaggers seems to bring the office home with him and carries on to be sinister and dark minded.

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