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How does Dickens Create sympathy for his characters in “Great Expectations’? Essay Sample

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How does Dickens Create sympathy for his characters in “Great Expectations’? Essay Sample

He initially focuses on the character of Pip and introduces him in the churchyard alone. This then leads on to introducing other characters though Pips point of view as his life develops. The plot is followed and based on Pips life from when he was a young boy to when he became a gentleman.

When in the churchyard, Pip is scared into stealing some food and a file for an escaped convict. Pip then takes the food and the file to the escaped convict and learns that there is another convict in the churchyard with the other. The convict is then re-captured, and he makes sure the other convict is also is captured. Pip is later invited to the house of an heiress to a brewery; she is called Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham was jilted on her wedding day, and from that day has refused to change anything, and to this day was still in her room with her wedding dress on and all the wedding equipment (cake etc.).

Miss Havisham therefore had no children, but she was living with a young girl called Estella. Estella’s background is unknown, but she has been brought up to be a high member of society. Estella was taught by Miss Havisham to treat all men cruelly, this included Pip. Pip’s sister hoped that Miss Havisham would show favour on Pip and would give him some of her fortune. When Pip becomes fourteen he learns that he is to become Joe’s (his brother in law) apprentice, as this was usual what took place at this age. Pip was not very happy with this because Joe was only a black smith and was of a working class. Shortly after that, Pip had some good news from a lawyer that he had come into fortune from a secret benefactor. This was to influence Pips life greatly and hence the name “Great Expectations”. The money was used to turn Pip into a gentleman.

In the novel, we are introduced to two different ideas of what makes a gentleman. One idea is that a gentleman is made what he is by his social status or class: this is measured in terms of his understanding of rules of things like table manners, habits of dress and speech and the standing of his family (reputation); wealth is important, too. Early in the novel Pip forms the idea that makes him desperate to be Estella’s social equal but at the same time, he becomes ashamed of his teacher, Joe. A quite different standard is apparent to the reader from early in the novel, and eventually to Pip, that being a true gentleman is a matter of virtue and honesty.

Dickens creates sympathy for Pip in many ways. Firstly, In the novel “Great Expectations” Dickens creates a bleak setting in order to emphasise the comfortless past of the central character, Pip. The reader is first introduced to Pip in a church graveyard that is described as a bleak desolate place, overgrown with nettles. This creates an image of decay. The word overgrown suggests no one tends the graveyard. The word ‘bleak’ contributes to this atmosphere with its associations of a barren place that offers little hope. Pip was an orphan, and therefore had never seen his parents and had not even seen photographs of them. ‘ I never saw my father or my mother’, this triggers the reader into feeling sorry for Pip and also at the same time sets the scene for the rest of the story to give the pessimistic impression of Pip’s life. The churchyard is again setting the scene and demonstrating a part of Pip’s life, desolate and uncared for. Dickens’s father was in a debtor’s prison for a long time, From this experience; he was able to clearly portray what the situation is like for Pip.

Pip’s experiences are described as being new and almost daunting. ‘Pretty large room’ and ‘in it was a draped table with a guilded looking glass’. This portrays a sense of luxury, yet in that room ‘sat the strangest lady’ which shows that Pip was very new to Miss Havisham’s lifestyle. Pip is forced to everything that Miss Havisham tells him to mainly because she feels like she is better than Pip in every way because she has money. However, the reality is pip is the one with the manners and he is very polite to Miss Havisham despite the way she treats him. Pip is constantly being discouraged and put down. He is repeatably being called ‘boy’, which is very impersonal and demeaning. This in effect creates sympathy for Pip as the reader may feel that no one, especially a young child, should be treat like that. Miss Havisham and Estella speak negatively towards and about Pip, which also creates sympathy for pip. Because of this pip begins to feel inadequate. This then causes pip to speak negatively of Joe.

Magwich is a vague character at the beginning of the story. He meets Pip in the churchyard and appears eager to rush the conversation. He asks Pip many questions to find out more about him. Magwich was of an unkempt appearance, “A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered

In mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by Nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared

And growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me

By the chin.” This emphasises the pessimistic image of Magwich to make the reader feel a sense of sympathy for the character of Magwich, but not much, because the sympathy is decreased because of the way he treats Pip.

He speaks commonly and harshly. In addition, he makes a lot of commands and threats, “Hold your noise!” cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. “Keep still, you

little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!” signalising that he was not very friendly. All these descriptions indicate that he is running away from something or had escaped, but are still vague about his background. At the beginning, he is an object of terror to Pip, but his decision to take the blame for the theft of the pie and file shows his sensitivity. When Magwich returns to meet Pip, the story reveals that he is the parentage of Estella and is Pips secret benefactor. At the final stage of the novel, he has changed from being an object of repulsion to someone who Pip pities and loves. When we know more of Magwich’s background, we can have some sympathy for him. In the 19th century, there were no benefits, so if you did not have any money you would either starve or turn to crime for money.

Dickens creates sympathy for Miss Havisham in a number of ways. Firstly, he presents Miss Havisham in a way like there is something wrong, ‘she had not quite finished dressing’, this intrigues the reader into wondering what had happened before the time they are reading about. It shows that there is something not quite right about Miss Havisham. Also, Miss Havisham’s state of mind is reflected on, ‘withered’, ‘no brightness left’, this portrays a sense of confusion.

Secondly, Miss Havisham is constantly giving commands to pip, ‘come nearer’, ‘come to play’, ‘come close’, this demonstrates a side of Miss Havisham’s social class difference to Pip, and although this could be thought of as being a negative response to Pip, this is what was always done when different social classes happen to meet and was thought of as normal for this time era of the Victorians. Therefore, if you consider the historical facts then you have to consider the difference of classes. For a modern reader you may not have a lot of sympathy for Miss Havisham because of the way she treats pip. Miss Havisham bullies Pip into saying things that otherwise he would not have said. Dickens uses highly descriptive words for Miss Havisham,’ she had the appearance of having drooped, body and soul, within and without’, this creates sympathy for Miss Havisham by demonstrating the bleak and unopportunist life that she has.

In conclusion, Dickens creates sympathy for his characters successfully to make the novel interesting and to keep the reader involved in the story.

He does this by using several dramatical devices to bring his characters ‘to life’. He has tried to help the reader understand the situations of the character in order to create sympathy for them. All the characters take a role in creating sympathy for each other by the way they tend to treat each other in the novel. Again, Dickens uses a great amount of descriptions and detail to convey sympathy. This is done successfully and does create the correct contrast of sympathy while comparing the different characters.

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