In the novel ‘Great Expectations,’ Charles Dickens has managed to create several strong characters that are both memorable and remarkable and which definitely grab the reader’s attention. He uses a variety of techniques to make the characters seem so real. Most of the characters in the novel represent the social classes, showing the extremes of the social classes, this portrays how each character is motivating and inimitable in their own way. Dickens was a keen observer of London life, and he used what he saw to put it into his writing. His childhood poverty played a great contribution to Dickens’ later views on the social reform of England, and to his compassion for the lower classes, which as a result of his childhood experience of poverty, great expectations deals with the problems that Pip (the main character in the novel) has with making his way in the world from a difficult start. However, Dickens was criticised of being two- dimensional and of producing caricatures, which is a representation in which the person’s distinctive features are exaggerated.
For example, in the novel, the convict was criticised for being hyperbolic. Nevertheless, all of the characters have depth, because the background information of Pip is described in a lot of detail, for example, “I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister- Mrs Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs)…” In this part of the description of Pip’s family, a lot of in depth information is given on Pip, because not only do we discover that Pip’s parents are dead, we also uncover the fact that Pip has a sister who married a blacksmith.
The environment, in which Pip lives in, also lacks a great amount of detail, “Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea”. Here, we are told that Pip lives in the countryside, near a river.
Pip is very young, and is very gullible and naive, showing how young he is in spite of him visiting his parents and his five brothers’ graves, which shows his independency as a young child, and the fact that he is capable of doing a mature task all alone.
The dialogue used in the novel, is naturalistic, however some parts of the dialogue is exaggerated, for example when Pip encounters the convict in the churchyard, “Hold your noise!’ cried a terrible voice, as a man started up among the graves at the side of the church porch.” Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!” The reader is able to identify that the convict will not really cut Pip’s throat, because the only reason the convict is threatening Pip is because he knows that Pip is a vulnerable, and gullible child, and will listen to whatever the convict says.
Pip narrates his story many years after the events of the novel take place in first person narrative; there are actually two Pips in Great Expectations: Pip the narrator and Pip the character-the voice telling the story and the person acting it out. Dickens takes great care to differentiate the two Pips, imbuing the voice of Pip the narrator with perspective and maturity while also imparting how Pip the character feels about what is happening to him as it actually happens.
This distinction is best observed early in the book, when Pip the character is a child; here, Pip the narrator gently pokes fun at his younger self, but also enables us to see and feel the story through his eyes. As Pip’s story unfolds, he starts by describing the setting around him. The setting is described as a pathetic fallacy, especially when the environment reflects Pip. For example, Pip is described as a “lonely isolated boy”, and the environment is described also as “the small bundle of shivers”, which is described as Pip’s surroundings. They both relate with each other, because both the environment and Pip, are described as lonely and small. By describing Pip as a “lonely isolated boy”, this creates sympathy and compassion from the readers towards Pip.
Pip in a very naive and gullible boy, however this was the perception of a Victorian child. An example of Pip being naive and gullible is when Pip encounters the convict, and the convict threatens Pip to bring him food, and some files for his broken leg, ” Hold your noise!’ cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. ‘Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!” The convict knows that Pip is a young child, perhaps at the age of seven, and that young children have a tendency to be vulnerable and gullible, hence the convict takes advantage of Pip’s young age. Nonetheless, in the Victorian Times, many young children were taken advantage of and were treated very harshly, and were forced to do child labour, such as cleaning chimneys of other people’s homes. Pip is treated very cruelly by his sister, Mrs Joe Gargery. A common quote that was used by many people in the Victorian Times was ‘Children should be seen, not heard’, this implies why many adults ignored children in those harsh times.
Pip has an orphan status; both of his parents are dead, so he lives with his sister- Mrs Joe Gargery, “I give Pirrip as my father’s family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister- Mrs Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them.” Not only does this create further sympathy for Pip from the readers, but it also conveys lots of character information. In addition, this has been stated as a matter of fact idea, and is written in an impassive way. Pip also has five siblings- who were his younger brothers, and all of them died during childbirth, “To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine- who gave up trying to get a living exceedingly early in that universal struggle.”
Pip describes his brothers’ like a poem, and in this poem we also get an idea of the size of his brothers’ bodies, which are described as ‘five little stone lozenges.’ When Pip mentions, ‘universal struggle’, in this quote, these two words show how hard and tough life can be, thus creating additional empathy from the readers towards Pip, as he is left all alone in this world to cope with his grief by himself. Furthermore, when Pip goes on to describe his belief on how his brothers were born, we are shown a more childish side of Pip, “I am indebted for a belief that I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trouser- pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.” Not only is Pip’s juvenile side shown to us, but it demonstrates how immature Pip can be, however one can argue that Pip is only a young child, so he will of course act child like.
When Pip goes on to depict more information of both of his parents, we are told in a more imaginative way the physical descriptions of his parents, “The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly . From the character and turn of the inscription, ‘Also Georgiana Wife of the Above,’ I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly.” This is an indirect way of conveying character information in this extract, thus making it more inventive.
In extract two, Pip is taken by his uncle Pumblechook to play at Satis House, the home of the wealthy dowager Miss Havisham, who is an extremely eccentric lady. In this extract, Pip becomes aware of his own social class, when he plays with Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter, Estella- who treats Pip very coldly and contemptuously. For example when Estella says, “He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy!’ said Estella with disdain, before our first game was out. ‘And what coarse hands he has. And what thick boots!” and then Pip mentions, “I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair,” without defending himself because he sorrowfully believes her to be right. This also illustrates that Pip has never been aware of his appearance before, yet now being with Estella, Pip becomes anxious about the way he looks.
Later on in Extract two, Miss Havisham’s behaviour, has an effect on pip, for example, when Miss Havisham tells Estella to play cards with Pip, and when Estella rebels, Miss Havisham tells Estella that she can break Pip’s heart, “I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer- only it seemed so unlikely- ‘ Well! You can break his heart.” However, Pip does not think much about what Miss Havisham said to Estella; instead he begins to play with Estella. Another example is when Miss Havisham says to Pip, “I sometimes have sick fancies,’ she went on, ‘and I have a sick fancy that I want to see some play. There, there!” with an impatient movement of the fingers of her right hand; “play, play!” After hearing this from Miss Havisham, Pip mentions to the readers, “… I felt myself so unequal to the performance that I stood looking at Miss Havisham in what I suppose she took for a dogged manner, inasmuch as she said, when we had taken a good look at each other-“. In this quote, Pip feels that he is disproportionate to Miss Havisham, and feels that he has no manners.
When telling Miss Havisham about his opinions on Estella, we begin to notice Pip’s anxiety and discomfort with Miss Havisham. For instance when Miss Havisham asks Pip what he thinks of Estella, Pip replies, “I don’t like to say,’ I stammered. “Tell me in my ear,’ said Miss Havisham, bending down. ‘I think she is very proud,’ I replied, in a whisper. ‘Anything else?’ ‘I think she is very pretty.’ ‘Anything else?’ ‘I think she is very insulting (she was looking at me then with a look of supreme aversion.)’ In this quote Pip replies to Miss Havisham’s continuous questions, by mentioning that Estella is pretty, proud, though very insulting. When Pip mentions the way Miss Havisham looks at him, “She was looking at me then with a look of supreme aversion”, we realise Pip’s reason for being anxious and uncomfortable, which is because Miss Havisham looks at Pip with hatred, and this is not a good impression for Pip, on his first day at Satis House.