“Great Expectations” was written by Charles Dickens, Ostensibly it is a story of an adult reminiscing about his childhood and his journey through life, however the connotations are evident. Dickens was in essence a child brought up in poverty and he wanted to convey the message that regardless of wealth and social stature you can know the price of everything and yet be ignorant of the true value of things.
“Great Expectations” is written in first person retrospective narration; this makes the text feel more personal and allows the reader to gain a greater understanding of the feeling and emotions that the characters are enduring, it also gives that ground level feel that can only be achieved using first person narration. It is told through the eyes of Phillip Pirrip, Pip, as he is called, is an orphan and lives with his sister and the metaphorical hero of the story Joe. Pip’s name is symbolic as it portrays Pip as a fragile small individual who is easily destroyed and to prosper needs to be brought in the correct environment. Dickens often uses subtle hints of a characters persona in his use of names. Miss Havisham name is indicative of her persona.
Dickens frequent use of complex and sophisticated language allows the reader to gain a greater knowledge of key characters. The meeting of Miss Havisham is replete with gothic imagery “the brightness of her sunken eyes”. This use of vivid imagery lets the reader realise that Miss Havisham intentions are far from pleasant. She sounds more like a vampire than a person and this augmented by the fact that she lives in darkness. Miss Havishams exterior appearance gives us an idea of her motives she also lives her life vicariously through Estella. Dickens use of antithesis creates a huge contrast and his first impression of Miss Havisham soon seems to be false. The vampirical imagery used is to add weight to the fact that Miss Havisham is evil and malicious who takes sick pleasure is the suffering of others in the hope that everyone will feel the pain she felt at being jilted at the alter . She is not only intent of destroying her happiness but also the happiness of those around her. The syntax and sophisticated language used indicates to us that Pip is telling the story from when he is much older “I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie comprehended in the answer”.
Estella has been taught share in Miss Havisham chauvinistic opinions toward men and thus talks to Pip in a subservient and degrading manner, when Estella is asked to play a game with Pip she replies “With this boy, why he is a common labouring boy” this makes the reader empathise with Pips feeling of inferiority From this the reader can deduce the influence that Miss Havisham holds over Estella and though not her real daughter with their shared beliefs Estella is almost a “clone” of Miss Havisham. Estella is however stunningly beautiful and up until the moment Pip meets Estella he has no discernable opinion in spite of this he views Estella’s opinion so highly that when she comments on the unsightly condition of his shoes he finds himself sharing the same view as she.
Dickens characters are so memorable because of the indicative way that Dickens
describes the surroundings. In the scene with Miss Havisham Dickens sets the scene by creating antithesis between what Pip thinks he sees and the reality of the surroundings that greets him when his eyes get used to the light “she was dressed in rich materials…some bright jewels sparkled ….and no brightness left” the bright jewels are suggestive of opulence. These characters are so memorable because they are not a common book characters, with the exception of Pip and Joe all the characters provide something very different whether it be the ghostly traits that Ms Havisham possesses or the views about men that Estella has at such a young age.
Dickens repeatedly uses pre-figurative language to drop hints to the reader about forthcoming events e.g. Ms Havisham wedding dress and bizarre surroundings foreshadow her past. Dickens use of motifs also adds more depth to a scene. Dickens uses the weather as a motif. In the scene with Pip and Magwitch Dickens utilises the weather and uses it to place added intensity to the scene “distant savage lairs from which the wind was rushing.”
Joe Gargery is the husband of Mrs Joe Gargery, Pip’s sister. Pips description of Joe is symptomatic of an angelic individual “Joe was a fair man with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face” We then see a complete antithesis when Pip describes his sister’s “black hair and eyes” this line particularly effective as no ones eyes are really black and it shows her icy exterior matches her interior it shows the darkness in her heart. From the dialogue between Joe and Pip the reader can see that Joe is not an educated man “and she Ram-paged out” however this does not stop him from being a kind and honest man with Pips best interests at heart and this is shown when Mrs Joe Gargery comes looking for Pip and Joe stands in front of Pip protecting him from any harm this is shown when Mrs Joe comes looking for Pip, Joe places himself in front of Pip shielding him from Mrs Joe. Pip relates to Joe as he sees them both as “Fellow sufferers” at the hands of his sister. Again Joe Gargery is a metaphorical character Dickens is saying that you do not need to be rich or educated to be good person at heart.
Mrs Joe Gargery is Pips sister who has brought him up following the death oh his parents. “She had brought me up by hand”. This euphemism is used to portray the type of upbringing that Mrs Joe had chose to use whilst raising Pip and shows the harsh life that Pip has had to endure. The language used to describe Mrs Joe allows the reader to imagine a women who has no maternal instincts whatsoever, “with black hair and black eyes.” The fact that Mrs Joe wears an “impregnable bib” shows that she does not let anything near her both literally and metaphorically. These descriptions are the complete antithesis to a mother. The reader can also view the fear that Pip holds when Mrs Joe shouts at Pip “I whimpered”, again we see examples of how un motherly Mrs Joe is. Pip refers to his sister as” Mrs Joe” this shows the decorous manner in which Pip speaks to his sister
To conclude Charles Dickens uses a Varity of techniques ranging from antithesis to motifs to ensure that the characters are both memorable and striking. By use of vivid imagery the reader is able to build up a mental picture of various settings this in turn makes it easier to place themselves in different situations. This combined with syntax and use of charactornyms all aid in Dickens making memorable and striking characters.