Charles Dickens shows in his writing that he was affected by his life experiences. Dickens concentrates in his writing how children are treated in the Victorian times showing that he didn’t like how children were seen but not heard, and how poorly they were treated, like himself when he was young. His life experiences included working in a blacking factory, which was hard labour work with very little pay, but he was forced to do it because of his father’s debt, which his father went to prison for. However when the Dickens family was out of debt, Charles’ mother (Elizabeth Dickens) still made him go to work.
Although, after a few years he returned to school, he never forgot the experience and referred to it in two of his well known novels; David Copperfield and Great Expectations. His interest in the theatre is also conveyed in his novels he uses long detailed and descriptive sentences and words to show what a perspective or scene is like, almost as if he is painting a picture with words, he also structures his writing to include really dramatic effects in his novels, as Victorians didn’t have the technology to see pictures then. Dickens also learnt how his career as a journalist made him wealthy, which he enjoyed as he didn’t have the money when he was younger, and as he got older he wrote more and more. Therefore Dickens became wealthier and wealthier.
Charles Dickens used several different ranges of effects. These include: setting, characters, structure, humour and pathos. The novel is written as it is being narrated, and the narrator is a child, you can tell this by the fact that he cannot say his own name; he calls himself Pip instead of Phillip Pirrip. Also, it tells us in the novel, that a fearful man in coarse grey with a great iron on his legs is coming towards Pip; however, Pip still does not understand that the man is a convict.
At the beginning, the whole scene of the marshes is described with long and detailed sentences. The churchyard is described as bleak and overgrown, and there is a dark, flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, this shows that the surroundings are lonely and dismal, then, right at the end of the paragraph, it introduces Pip by saying “And that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry was Pip.” This is purposely done. In the first few chapters Pip is made to feel very isolated, with the convict (Magwitch) scaring him to death, and his bad tempered sister, not sure what to do with himself or anybody to ask, Pip must feel very alone, and as Pip grows up he is haunted by it, this really effects the child’s story.
In chapter 39 Pip is in London, there are moments where Dickens uses pathetic fallacy. This is one way the setting of London is used to emphasize Pip’s troubled thoughts. For example “I saw the lamps in the court were blown out.” This may be referring to Pip’s luck and hope, Perhaps Pip’s luck and hope is going to be ruined by trouble in the near future. The weather is also used to mirror and suggest how Pip is feeling and reacting. This is shown by “it was wretched weather; stormy and wet, stormy and wet; and mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets. Day after day, a vast heavy veil had been driving over London from the east, and it drove still, as if in the east there were an eternity of cloud and wind.” Dickens uses repetition to create an effect, emphasising a feeling that Pip is experiencing, which is that he feels troubled and frustrated.
In various moments of the novel, the characters of Pip and Magwitch show the characters are in complete contrast; at other points they are similar. When the characters are introduced, Magwitch is presented as a fearful man, who appears very violent, for example “seized me.” In addition Magwitch speaks extremely roughly, with a colloquial, uneducated accent. For instance “Pint out the place,” and “You go from my words in any partickler.” On the other hand, in contrast to this; Pip is represented as a polite, pitiful and imaginative little boy, who has learnt to use manners. This is shown by: “O! Don’t cut my throat, sir,” and “Pray don’t do it, sir.” Pip is the complete opposite to Magwitch to arouse the reader’s sympathy, and to position the reader with Pip against the convict.
Later on in the novel, it is like Magwitch and Pip have swapped roles. As Pip gets older he becomes more and more the higher class gentleman, and his attitude towards more common people becomes ruder and more snobbish. Whereas, as Magwitch grows older, he becomes more pitiful, grateful and prouder, this is similar to how Pip acted as a child. The beginning of the novel then structures the whole of the novel, by introducing lots of different charters that intertwine in each other, Dickens makes all of the characters connect with each other, even if the characters themselves don’t know it, for example; Magwitch had a baby, but because he was convicted he was told that the child was born dead, however near to the end of the story Pip tells Magwitch that his daughter is alive, a great lady and that he (Pip) loves her.
When Dickens wrote his novels he based parts of them from his own memories from real life situations, for example; he spent time in Norfolk as a child. Miss Havisham. The character was based from an article that had been written in a newspaper about a lady who was left the day of her marriage and then lived in her wedding dress. This affects the story by giving a sense of reality put in, and might make people think about the character a bit more. The narrative voice of Pip changes over time, for instance, at the beginning; the narration is spoken as if it were a child speaking. For example when he is describing Magwitch eating at the marshes he describes him like a dog, Pip recognises how a dog reacts and notices similarities. Pip is also very polite and doesn’t try to fight back when Magwitch is tilting him backwards or whenever Magwitch is threatening him, he just does what he is told. Then later on, Pip’s vocabulary improves dramatically this is shown in chapter 39, for example it tells us “that I cannot wish to renew that chance intercourse with you of long ago, under these circumstances. I am glad you have repented and recovered yourself.”
Pip shows by this that he has been educated well, and he is very intelligent, it also indicates the status of the characters, as Pip now thinks he is superior because he is a gentleman. However, Pip isn’t just telling the story; he also shares how he reacts and feels in the different situations in the novel. Dickens uses different techniques to build up effect; this could include metaphors, similes, adjectives, onomatopoeia. This is shown by; “Now, I ain’t alone, as you may think I am there’s a young man hid with me, in comparison with which young man I am a angel.” Metaphors are used to create the effect of speaking of one thing in terms of another to enable the reader to picture what Dickens is saying. Dickens also uses similes eg “In all of which particulars he was very like a dog.” Similes are used to create the effect of a clearer image. Dickens uses onomatopoeia, for example; “gust” and “blast” the effect is to make descriptions of sound even more real. Dickens also uses sentence length to make it more effective. By using simple sentences, he creates the effect of being memorable in their simplicity. For example “So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.” He also uses longer sentences, like when he is describing something eg scenery, the effect of this is to stretch the imagination of the reader, to provide extra layers of meaning and to add sophistication to the style of writing.
What Dickens wanted to achieve is this novel is to make people realise that children should be treated properly and they can be affected by their past, it may shape their future, but also that the unexpected can happen. Through his novel he makes a strong moral statement, which he does this by using various techniques to entertain the reader for example, humour, memories, repetition etc, which his intention is to make people think. The novel ends ambiguously with a hint that Pip and Estella will never be parted again, so he leaves you to make your own mind up in what happens.