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How Does Dickens Create Atmosphere In The Opening Chapters Of Great Expectations? Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

In the opening chapter, Dickens portrays quite a sad and gloomy atmosphere because Pip is visiting the grave of his parents and five brothers. However, the scene develops into a more intimidating and hostile environment when another character is introduced. Dickens uses a variety of tools and components to create this atmosphere; these include powerful adjectives, imagery, similes, metaphors, powerful verbs and pathetic fallacy.

In the opening chapter, Dickens describes the surroundings and settings in detail. He does this through the use of a wide variety of powerful adjectives. For example, he describes the churchyard as a, “bleak place overgrown with nettles”. This creates atmosphere because it portrays to the reader how much of a hostile place the churchyard is and also, because it is Pip that is describing the churchyard in the novel, it shows the reader Pip’s negative attitude and emotions towards this intimidating place. Additionally, it tells the reader that Dickens wants us to have a negative feeling about the churchyard and its surroundings.

Also, there are lots of phrases that give clues as to the period in time that the story was set in. An example of this is, “five little brothers of mine – who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle”. This shows the reader that there was a high infant death rate at the time at which the story was written, which leads us to believe that the story was written a long time ago, whilst times were harsh; before the advanced technology we have today was invented.

Dickens also uses metaphors to create atmosphere in the opening chapter. He does this through the character of Pip. For example, when he describes the sky; “the sky was just a row of angry red lines”. This tells the reader that Dickens wants to create images in the reader’s head to make the reader feel more as though he was inside the story. Also, it suggests to the reader that the color (angry red) suggests the mood of the characters.

Dickens uses the character Magwitch to create atmosphere and effect. He does this through the use of similes. For example, when Pip watches him retreat, Dickens uses a simile to describe what Pip can see; “The man was limping on towards this latter, as if he were the pirate come to life”. This creates atmosphere because it describes Magwitch as though he is one of the pirates that has been killed and has come back to life; it describes him as though he were the living-dead. Also, it adds to the whole deadly feel of the graveyard and shows Pip’s intimidation of Magwitch from the way he

describes him. Dickens creates effect by showing us Pip’s

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thoughts and emotions. He does this through the use of the 1st person narrative. For example, “I pleaded in terror”. This creates atmosphere because it gives us an insight to Pip’s thoughts and emotions and shows us his attitude towards the events taking place in the novel, which creates atmosphere.

Also, in chapter one, Dickens introduces a sense of mystery and suspense. He does this whilst he is describing the newly introduced character of Magwitch; “with a great iron on his leg”. This shows the reader that he is maybe a prison convict and makes the reader wonder why he is chained up. Also, it shows the reader that he is a shady character. This builds up atmosphere.

Additionally, there is a deadly element to the whole chapter. For example, the chapter is set in a churchyard full of dead bodies, “overgrown with nettles was the churchyard” and then as the chapter develops, Pip receives a death threat from Magwitch, “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat”. This deadly element creates a negative atmosphere throughout the first chapter and shows to the reader that the churchyard is a dangerous and intimidating place, especially for a small boy.

Also, Dickens uses imperative verbs throughout chapter one. He does this through the character Magwitch. For example, “Quick” and “Hold”. This shows to the reader that Pip is intimidated by Magwitch and that Magwitch is using this fact to manipulate him into doing what he want him to do. Also, it shows that Magwitch is dominant over Pip and that he has an element of control over him.

Dickens also creates effect by the way he describes Magwitch. He does this through the use powerful adjectives and imagery. For example, he describes Magwitch as, “lamed”; “stung by nettles”; “A fearful man” and “man with no hat, and with broken shoes”. This creates an image in the readers head so that they have a better understanding of how the character behaves and how other characters react to him. Also, it shows the reader that he has a disheveled appearance and has the attire of a lower-classman; “man with no hat, and broken shoes”.

Dickens describes certain objects to create atmosphere. He does this through what the character Pip can see. For example, “gibbet”; this was something used to hang pirates. This reminds the reader once again of the time period in which the novel was set in. Also, it creates atmosphere because it suggests to the reader that death is all around.

Also, Dickens creates atmosphere by portraying the moods of the characters. He does this through the use of pathetic fallacy. For example, at the beginning of the chapter Pip is sad because he is visiting the churchyard to see the graves of his brothers and parents; “beginning to cry, was Pip”. This is reflected in the weather; “bleak” and “the wind was rushing, was the sea”. This is an effective technique because by having weather that compliments the emotions of the characters it creates a more appropriate atmosphere.

Dickens creates atmosphere by creating a sense of fear. He does this through the use imagery. For example, “he were eluding the hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a twist upon his ankle and pull him in”. This gives the reader an image in their head about what is going on the story and gives them a better understanding of the events that are taking place in the story and also, of the way that the characters behave.

Overall, in the opening chapter, Dickens portrays quite a sad and gloomy atmosphere because Pip is visiting the grave of his parents and five brothers. He does this through the use of a variety of powerful adjectives, imagery, powerful verbs and pathetic fallacy. However, the scene develops into a more intimidating, hostile and bleak environment when another character is introduced; Magwitch. Dickens uses a variety of tools and components to describe this character and the change in atmosphere caused by this disheveled character. These include powerful verbs, imagery, imperative verbs, powerful adjectives, etc.

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