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How Dickens Uses People and Place to set the Atmosphere of “Great Expectations” Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

Great Expectations is about an orphan called Pip. Pip was a young orphan living in the marshes of Kent with his sister and her husband Joe. From the time that pip was seven years old up until his mid thirties, he shows the events that happened to him made him become what he became. During his life he meets many different friends and situations, which has an influence on his decisions.

Pips name shows that he is a friendly person which leads to the fact that he is a pip and has not developed into anything yet. Having the name Pip, it makes it easier for a young person to pronounce. Pip had rejected two names when he was little being Phillip and Pirrip, this was because these were hard names for a seven year old to pronounce.

As he was only seven at the beginning of the story, I think that his age shows in the writing when he says things like ‘my infant tongue’ meaning that he could not pronounce either of the two names to anything more formal than Pip. Another way in which Pip’s age shows in the writing is the occasional nursery rhyme and the way he calls his brothers ‘lozenges’ meaning the sweet.

When Pip is sat in the graveyard looking at his mother’s, father’s and five brother’s tombstones he tries to picture in his head what they looked like, going by what the tombstones looked like. He imagined his brother as ‘a square, dark man with

curly hair’ which was actually his square, black tombstone with moss growing over the top. He

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imagined his mother as ‘freckled and sickly’. How pip describes his family shows us the way his mind works, his childish imagination and the way he compares the tombstones to his family.

I think Dickens chose to begin the story in the graveyard because a lot of Pip’s background involves graves. This is also a depressing place to start a story. This immediately reflects on the reader and has them feeling sorry for him.

When Magwitch turns up from hiding behind a tombstone in his coarse grey uniform ‘typical convict uniform’ with big iron balls on his leg, no hat, soaked through with water, covered in mud with cuts over him, broken shoes and limping makes pip very frightened indeed considering they are in a graveyard surrounded by graves and its dark boondocks.

The first impression of Magwitch to the reader is a typical convict, dark and dingy with a big iron ball on his leg. The language was used to make him look like he is suffering because the way that he was described to be a bad person, which turns out to be a kind person who was just framed.

Magwitch finds that he has ascendancy over pip as soon as they had first met also when he shouts ‘hold your voice’ and ‘lookee here’ which shows him being very rigorous like a father would be, this gives the impression of Magwitch showing a fatherly figure early in the play.


After reading great expectations I have come to see that Magwitch as a misunderstood character in the fact that dickens makes him out to be a convict when he had actually been framed for a crime he didn’t commit.

In Victorian times, people in the lower class were not able to defend themselves if they were arrested, and couldn’t afford a lawyer so ended up getting a much worse sentence then they deserved.

The description of place had been used to direct the readers view of the character by giving you a feel of what they do and see everyday, making you think that.

The first chapter had a lot of detail to follow, it sets the atmosphere and gave you a slight description of the characters.

Dickens gives a very good moral and a powerful one in this novel which is, you don’t have to wear a hat or be rich to be a gentleman.

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