Great Expectations is a novel which was written by Charles Dickens. It took from 1st December 1860 to August 1861 to completely publish the story, as two chapters per week was published to keep the readers interested and also to make money. It is known as one the greatest and most sophisticated novels around the world. The novel is about a boy called Pip who is an orphan, he was born in Victorian England and lives with his sister and brother in-law Joe Gargery. He meets a convict in the graveyard who threatens to kill him. Charles Dickens skilfully catches the reader’s attention and sympathy in the few pages; he introduces several major themes and he creates a mood of mystery in a lonely setting, and gets the plot moving quickly.
The characters that this opening chapter introduces are Phillip Pirrip (shortened to Pip). Pips father Pirrip and Pips mother Georgina (parents are dead). Pips brothers Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias and Roger (brothers are dead as there was not very good health care available). Pips sister and brother in-law Joe Gargery. Also there is a convict one and there is potential that there is another convict two. “There’s a young man hid with me, in comparison with which young man I am a Angel”.
This is due to the fact that convict one says that he is not alone and there is another convict hiding. Our sympathies lie with Pip and the convict. The main character Pip is being described as small, polite and well mannered as he says to the convict “good night sir” this shows that even though he is being threatened he will still show his manners. This grabs the readers attention as it creates tension in the reader as to why would someone who is being threatened still be polite. The convict is very scruffy looking, he has an iron bar attached to his leg also he is very filthy. This is a quote from the description being given “A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones”, even though he is filthy it still brings our sympathy towards him as he lets Pip go, this shows he is kind because Pip could tell the authorities and get him arrested but the convict trusts Pip as that’s why he lets Pip go.
Throughout this novel, older Pip is narrating the story and remembers the events of his childhood. This is a technique that Dickens uses very well to catch the reader’s attention. The reader is likely to feel that he or she is in Pip’s shoes and empathise within the story.
People are brought up to respect other people as that’s why Pip is so well mannered. The convict has been in prison so that’s why he talks informal “keep still you little devil or I’ll cut your throat”.
In this chapter the weather is rainy. This tells us that it is cold by the way the weather is described. The weather mimics the characters emotions. This is a technique called pathetic fallacy. This makes the reader feel anxious because of the weather being cold, wet and damp and at the same time Pip is being threatened by his life.
The chapter starts of being neglected because of the way the churchyard is treated “this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard” also it makes it mysterious due to the fact that it is in the church and it is set in the evening. The fear and tension are built when a filthy looking convict appears out of nowhere and picks on Pip, by hanging him upside down and talking about eating Pips cheeks. But Charles Dickens releases that fear and tension by adding humour. “Where’s your mother?” Pip replies saying “there sir”. The convict starts to realise that Pip was pointing at the gravestone, later realising that his mother was dead. By adding humour this stops the reader feeling that this is a depressing novel, but he later adds fear and tension back into the reader.
There are a number of themes running through this novel, the first of which is ‘Gentlemen and respectability’. Pip is showing respect to the convict as stated before. He replies back with sir and he says “good night sir” this shows that he is a true gentlemen and he has got respect.
The second theme is called ‘Crime and punishment’ and it recurs throughout the novel. The convict has escaped from the prison and he has an iron on his leg, this shows that Victorian times had very strict punishment. The reader will feel sorry for the situation of the convict but will know he must have committed a crime and must be hung for it.
Parents and children
The third theme of ‘parents and children’ is introduced very early with Pip telling us his family history in the first paragraph. Pips parents and brothers have died, as I stated previously, Victorian times did not have very good medical service, even if they did; only the rich people would have been able to afford the good medical service. Also, not many people went to school so they would not have been as educated, which would have made it difficult to find a job and make a living.
Power and powerless
Power and powerlessness is another theme Dickens features. At the start of the chapter when Pip meets the convict Charles Dickens shoes that the convict has power and pip has no power because the convict is standing up high pushing Pip down low “after each question he tilted me over a little more, so as to give me a greater sense of helplessness and danger”, which shows how much power the convict has and it also shows how helpless Pip is.
Charles Dickens wants to start the next chapter by showing us the path Pip is going to choose either death or safety. He uses the cliff-hanger to grab the reader’s attention and to make the reader want to read on, also he emphasises the fact that Pip is going to take the biggest decision in his life. Charles Dickens wants to make money as the Victorian times were tough times. Also the novel is part published so Dickens needs to grab the reader’s attention so they could buy the next chapter.
The questions that arise in the readers minds are Will Pip choose the road to safety or the road to death
Is there another convict?
The techniques Dickens has used to ensure that the reader will read on are, humour to take the tension and the fear of the reader’s mind but he creates the tension and fear back as Pip has to make a decision whether it is a road to safety or death. He introduces the characters at the start of the chapter so that we could get familiar with them. Also he sets the plot at a mysterious place in a graveyard. The time he sets is the evening and the weather is rainy and cold. These surely will grab the reader’s attention which will bring the reader to read another chapter.