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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

Great Expectations was written in the era of Queen Victoria which was a time of progression and prosperity. However this was not true of everyone, there was a huge gap in society between the rich and the poor for example there was only education for the rich. The justice system was very harsh but that was also in favour of the rich. In this book Dickens reflects on society at the time and shows the unjust class divide.

I am going to focus on how Charles creates sympathy for the characters of Pip, Miss Havisham and Magwitch using the first and second extracts. Dickens uses the setting the place and time in which the story takes place, dialogue the words spoken by the characters that inform the reader of their personality, motivation and attitudes, and voice the choice made by the author to write either as in the first or third person to help him create sympathy towards the characters.

Firstly I am going to look at pip and how Dickens show sympathy for him in extract one. The setting of the first extract is in a dark and gloomy churchyard in the marsh country down by a river. The place is overgrown with nettles which show that it is not well kept. Pip is standing in the middle of this churchyard next to tombstones of which Author tells us are of Pips five little brothers all lined up next to each other with also his mother and father. This instantly brings sympathy for Pip to the reader as we now know that he is an orphan. The author then continues describing the setting of where Pip is “intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river and that the distance savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea”.

Dickens creates more sympathy towards Pip in the line “and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry was Pip”. The voice that Dickens is using in the first few paragraphs is as an observer in the third person. Dickens then changes to the first person when Magwitch discovers pip and this also helps him show greater sympathy along with Dickens choice of dialogue “O! Don’t cut my throat sir” I pleaded in terror. “Pray don’t do it, sir. We know that Pip is very scared when it says “I was seated on a high tombstone, trembling”. And “I was dreadfully frightened and so giddy that I clung to him with both hands”. We understand Pips attitude towards Magwitch as being fully co-operative with him and trying his best to be polite as he repeatedly says “yes sir” which shows that he is very scared not to step out of line with Magwitch and do anything wrong. The extract concludes with Dickens back into the third person and saying “But, now I was dreadfully frightened again and ran home without stopping”. This shows us that Pip is still very scared about the ordeal that he has just gone through and by this it makes us more sympathetic towards him.

Secondly I am going to look at the character of Miss Havisham and how Charles creates sympathy towards her in extract 2. The setting of this extract is a large room that is well lighted with wax candles. It was a dressing room. Dickens the describes Miss Havisham as a very strange lady dressed in rich materials all of white, a long white veil and bridal flowers which suggests that she was supposed to be getting married. Pip had noticed all the clocks in the room had stopped at the same time of twenty minutes to nine. The way Dickens describes Miss Havisham and the setting makes us want to know more about her mysterious past. He also creates a sympathetic fell about her because we understand it that she has not been married and it looks like everything in her life has stopped from a long time ago. Miss Havisham talks to Pip in a posh voice making herself seem like she is above everyone else. She says to Pip “you are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born” which shows that she has not been outside for a very long time and this makes you also feel sympathetic towards her. The voice Dickens uses for Miss Havisham is in the first person which gives us a better understanding of the dialogue she is using and her strange ways making you curious to find out more about her.

Finally I am going to look at how Charles shows sympathy towards the character of Magwitch in the first extract. Dickens describes Magwitch as a fearful man with broken shoes and an old rag tied around his head. He was smothered in Mud and cut by flints, stung by nettles and torn by briers. He limped and shivered as his teeth chattered. This first impression that Dickens gives us of Magwitch is that he is a tramp which makes you feel sympathy towards him. Magwitch snaps at pip “tell us your name said the man. Quick!” This shows us that Magwitch must be in a hurry to go somewhere and everything he says to Pip is in a quick manner. We know that Magwitch is very hungry when he talks about eating pip licking his lips.

This makes us feel slight sympathy towards him that he is hungry but not sympathetic at all that he wants to eat our main character who we already feel great sympathy towards. Magwitch then orders Pip to get him a file and wittles from the blacksmith and give them to him in the morning. We feel only more slight sympathy towards Magwitch because he makes us want to know why he is in such a rush and talking in a cautious way. The voice Dickens uses for Magwitch is in the first person and because of this it helps us understand Magwitch’s point of view. We can understand that by in the first person that he is in a hurry and being very cautious about how he is going about. This would not be able to be expressed as much if Dickens was using a different voice.

Dickens is very successful on the way he creates sympathy towards each of his characters using the setting, the dialogue and the voice of each of his characters. Pip creates great sympathy towards the lead character of Pip but also creates some sympathy towards Magwitch and Miss Havisham. He does not show great sympathy towards Magwitch at the moment but as the story goes on Dickens continues to use his methods of creating sympathy and as you learn more and more about Magwitch you feel more sympathy towards him. He shows sympathy towards Miss Havisham at the moment but as the story goes on Dickens uses different methods to make you feel less sympathetic towards her.

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