”Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens Essay Sample
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”Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens Essay Sample
For this assignment I have chosen to analyse the following chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 8 and Chapter 20 (Volume 2 Chapter 1) of the novel. I will look at how Dickens uses language to build up atmospheres in these chapters and how Dickens’ characters are conveyed using his inspiring writing techniques.
I shall start by looking at Chapter 1. At the very start of the book, Dickens starts building an atmosphere, which is a one of sympathy for the main character named Pip. He does this by telling the reader about Pip’s family and how only him and his sister are alive. As this is in the first person, narrated by Pip, the sympathy is more of a personal one. Quotes such as, ‘As I never…from their tombstones.’ and ‘To five little…that universal struggle’ in paragraph one use quite child-like ideas to convey Pip as a younger character and at that age quite ignorant of his family.
Dickens shows Pip at the start of the chapter as a small boy mourning his parents’ and brother’s deaths in a dark and lonely churchyard. His feelings suddenly change as soon as he is grabbed by the escaped convict (which we later learn is called Magwitch). He suddenly becomes petrified fearing for his life as the convict threatens, ‘Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!’. Dickens uses a great description of the convict to also help in the portrayal of his sinister character. ‘A fearful man…by the chin’.
Another point that I found interesting was that Dickens uses another character dreamt up by the convict, ‘There’s a young man…of your inside.’ This ‘young man’ is a fictional character, or so Magwitch thinks at the time, used to scare Pip further into meeting his demands as illustrated in ‘Now lookee here…and liver out.’ This is quite ironic as at the same time Magwitch escaped from the Hulk (prison ship) docked nearby, another convict also escaped and was roaming the marshland.
The main atmosphere in this chapter is conveyed by Dickens as a sinister one. He starts to set the scene in the third paragraph after Pip’s mourning. First of all he gives the location of the scene, ‘Ours was the…of the sea.’ Then he gives a description of the churchyard in which Pip is stood, ‘that this bleak…was the churchyard.’ Next Dickens tells the reader of what lies beyond the churchyard, ‘that the dark…cry, was Pip.’
Dickens uses words such as old, dead, bleak, shivers and afraid to help build this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. The fact that this first chapter is set in a graveyard brings a dark and dreadful scene into the reader’s imagination and even in the last part of the chapter he uses some amazing imagery of Pip imagining dead people’s arms pulling the convict down as he stares back at Pip.
Next I shall study Chapter 8. In this chapter, two new characters are introduced, Miss Havisham and Estella with Mr. Pumblechook appearing only briefly. Miss Havisham is probably the quirkiest character in the book. Dickens describes her as being a bride dressed in rich clothes, bridal flowers in her hair, bright necklaces around her neck and not being quite dressed as she only wore one shoe. ‘She was dressed…the looking-glass.’
Everything that should have been white had turned yellow and all the clocks had stopped at twenty to nine. This is because she had received a letter at twenty to nine on her wedding day as she was preparing, from her fiancï¿½ telling her that he wouldn’t be attending. She had not changed or seen the sunlight since that day for thirty or forty years.
Her character is very strange indeed. She despises all men and she teaches Estella to do the same. Apart from that she is very mysterious. Dickens shows her to be very eccentric, ‘I noticed that Miss Havisham put down the jewel exactly on the spot from which she had taken it up.’ Also she has ‘sick fancies’. One of these is to watch Pip play. ‘I sometimes have…”play, play, play!”‘ As he does not know how or what to play, Miss Havisham calls Estella to play cards with him.
Dickens’ descriptions of miss Havisham are wonderfully detailed so you can get a firm image of an old woman sat in torn discoloured clothes in her chair looking at herself in a looking-glass
Estella is Miss Havisham’s ward. This chapter doesn’t tell much of her background but nevertheless gives a great impression of her character. Dickens has made her spiteful and scornful towards Pip. She has been taught to be like this by Miss Havisham because of her tragic life regarding men.
Dickens describes her as being very pretty and seeming very proud. He is disliked by Pip as she calls him ‘boy’ all the time and looks down on him. ‘Though she called…and a queen.’
Dickens conveys this character by again using descriptive language such as imagery but mainly through dialogue. I have noticed that the secondary characters are described less than the main ones but you can receive an overall impression of their personality by one line of their dialogue. One example of this with Estella is when she says, ‘With this boy! Why, he is a common labouring-boy!’ You can see straight away that she looks down on Pip by calling him common and therefore isn’t too keen on him.
The atmosphere in this chapter is mainly prominent as the plot moves into Miss Havisham’s Satis House. It starts off as being uncertain but slightly intimidating as we, the reader are not sure what is going to happen.
Dickens then makes the atmosphere ever so slightly more relaxed as Miss Havisham is introduced but there is still an air of uncertainty. Dickens uses words and phrases such as ‘ghastly waxwork’, ‘faded’ and ‘no brightness’ to convey the atmosphere throughout.
Finally, I shall look at Chapter 20. In this chapter, Pip travels to London. Compared to the vast marshes of Kent, he finds it ‘ugly, crooked, narrow and dirty.’ The main new character in this chapter is that of Mr. Jaggers. Dickens portrays him as being very sharp, harsh and nasty towards his clients and sometimes his staff. ‘You’re too late’ and ‘there’s an end of it. Get out of the way.’ Show this point.
However he is much nicer to Pip, ‘You will find your credit good, Mr. Pip’ but doesn’t seem to want to hold much of a conversation with him as Mr. Jaggers is a very busy person.
Dickens uses a very interesting method to convey Mr. Jaggers’ character. This is through his own environment. There is a very grand description of Mr. Jaggers’ office at the start of the chapter. ‘Mr. Jaggers’s room…and went out.’ The room is described as having ‘a most dismal place; the skylight, eccentrically patched like a broken head’. There aren’t so many papers about but a lot of strange objects. For example, Pip picks out ‘an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several strange looking boxes and packages and two dreadful casts on a shelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and twitchy about the nose.’
Dickens has also included a quite disgusting image of the wall opposite Jaggers’ desk being greasy from intimidated clients backing their shoulders against it. The whole description of the room shows Jaggers as being terrifying and intimidating. Especially as Pip says ‘he seemed to bully his sandwich as he ate it’.
The overall atmosphere of this chapter as with the other chapters I have looked at is a menacing and intimidating one with Dickens using the idea of the houses peering into Jaggers’ room to look at Pip and Jaggers himself being overly harsh to his clients. His name creates an impression of something deathly as well. The haunting atmosphere in Mr. Jaggers’ room is even enough to make Pip want to leave.