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How Does Dickens Create Striking and Memorable Characters In Great Expectations? Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

As Pip grows up and his mind develops, his outlook on characters and different situations change. This creates disparity in the character, making them more realistic and believable, inevitably making them memorable. Magwitch is the most obvious case of this, due to the radical change in Pip s relationship with him. In first meeting him, Pip speaks formally as he is afraid of the convict stranger – Don t cut my throat, sir. Magwitch speaks harshly to Pip because he is hungry and desperate – Once more, give it mouth. Later on in the novel Magwitch refers to Pip as dear, suggesting that their relationship has changed and that Magwitch had changed as a person. He also says That s it, dear boy! Call me uncle . This is the complete opposite in comparison to the way he originally spoke to Pip, he now sounds noble and compassionate – rather than sinister and menacing. This creates a contrasting effect for Magwitch: we see him as a menacing convict, and later as a kind benefactor. This technique allows Dickens to offer variety in his characters, making them conspicuous, and therefore the reader is more likely to remember the characters each week.

Each characters costume is particular to how they are feeling, their class or their occupation. Dickens uses costume as a strong indicator of what characters are like. Miss Havisham s clothes tell us about how she is feeling and how she lives her life.

Great Expectations – being a bildungsroman – shows each character from Pip s point of view; this creates a histrionic and sometimes melodramatic impression of different characters. Introduced by an immature Pip at the beginning of the novel, many characters are striking and memorable; this is because Dickens uses Pips immature mind to make a contrast in the different types of characters, thus making each one striking and memorable. In the context of which Dickens was publishing his novel – weekly in a newspaper – memorable characters was a necessity, as the reader must remember them, from one week to the next.

Dickens uses pathetic fallacies and eccentric settings, to teach us about his characters or their personalities. A good example of this is Miss Havisham s house, which is referred to as old brick, and dismal, and had great many iron bars to it. The old brick, in this description refers to Miss Havisham s old age and the iron bars refer to the Miss Havisham being imprisoned by her house and the restraints on her heart (in regards to men). The house is described as being built with dismal , this lies in direct reference with Miss Havisham s depression and her gloomy attitude. This technique is also used when introducing Magwitch to the novel. We first meet Magwitch in a bleak and overgrown graveyard, beset with thick fog; this gives us the initial impression that Magwitch is a rather sinister man, reinforced by the appearance of a rough convict. However the setting of the church yard can also be linked to Magwitch s nobleness later on in the novel, when he repays Pip for his help.

This method is effective as it can tell us things about characters, that Pip s young and adolescent may not detect or recognise; it a

lso keeps the reader interested and hone. Her old clothes suggest that she is emotionally trapped at

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the time when she was stood up and is unable to get over it. Unable to accept what happened to her, Miss Havisham does not remove her wedding dress because then she will be looked down upon, by a Victorian society that believes women should be married. Characters costumes are a good indictor of the character s position in social hierarchy – during the tome of this novel, there was a huge difference in classes, with the working class being very poor and the middleclass being a lot richer. With Miss Havisham s clothes being old and wilted, it shows her sinking position in society, because she doesn t leave her house.

This is reinforced by the faded yellow color of her dress; this suggests that Miss Havisham s social position and even sanity has deteriorated, over time. Magwitch s clothes also tell us a lot about his place in the social hierarchy; when Magwitch is a convict he is, A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head – this suggests that he is desperate and poor – which is true. When Magwitch s class improves and he is no longer desperate or poor, he is seen dressed as a gentleman . Pip s clothes are fashioned to his occupation; growing up as an apprentice blacksmith Pip was clothed with thick boots and plain clothes; when Pip becomes a gentleman, his clothes become very elaborate and glamorous. Dickens use of meaningful costume makes the introduction of characters interesting and makes the audience pay attention to the details of people s costume, so they can draw information about them, thus keeping them entertained.

Dickens characters are very striking in the sense that they seem real and are believable. Dickens amalgamates experiences from his own life and childhood into the plot. Dickens did not grow up in a particularly big or glamorous house; his father spent most of his life in debt and even went to prison, as a result of this. Dickens also had to work part-time in a blacking factory; these experiences mean that he lived a diverse, meeting many different types of people, from different parts of the social hierarchy. Many of Dickens characters are influenced by people that Dickens met when growing up – a good example of this is Estella. She is much like somebody Dickens met; he fell in love with a women who belittled him and referred to him as boy.

Another good example is Mrs Joe; much like her, Dickens mother died very young. In using biographical context, Dickens keeps his characters fresh and realistic; in using experiences that is very close to him and probably the audience, Dickens makes it easy for the audience to relate to his characters. Having been written in the Victorian times, many of the readers would also have experienced the death of young children, debt and social incline and decline. Moreover the blend of autobiographical and fictional experience together means that the captivating characters have enthralling lives and experiences: inevitably making them very memorable because we can link may of the characters to significant events.

Something very prominent about each of Dickens character is their names: each characters name lies in direct relevance to their personality. This technique is sometimes used for a humorous effect and other times to make a character look chilling. Pumblechook : a very brazen and ostentatious name, thus suggesting that he is very over the top and probably incredibly rich. Sinister names like Magwitch or Havisham suggest that the character will be slightly malevolent or malicious.

Unlike these pompous and sinister names, Pip has a very simple name, with only one syllable; this suggests that Pip is a very simple character, who is common, unostentatious and quite low in the social hierarchy – at the time of being named. Dickens can therefore tell us about a character, simply by mentioning their name; this technique also builds tension, as the more sinister names suggest that an evil character will enter the plot and potentially harm Pip. The prominence of the characters names make them distinct, in the readers memory – Dickens had to do this, so the readers would remember them from one week to the next (as Great Expectations was originally published in a newspaper).

In contrasting the most extremes of characters – from Miss Havisham to Magwitch – a novel filled with striking and memorable characters was inevitable. In publishing his forty-eight chapter novel weekly in a newspaper: characters that stuck in your mind were a necessity. Cleverly, Dickens used a contrast of simple and elaborate names; Dickens used settings and weather to tell us about his characters; Dickens also used meaningful costumes in order to set the tone for them. In order to help the audience relate to his characters, Dickens intermingled events from his own childhood thus making his characters fresh and believable. Originally published in 1861, Dickens characters are still striking and memorable: making his novel enjoyable and appealing, even after one hundred and forty years.

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