How Effective is the First Chapter of Dickens’ “Great Expectations” Essay Sample

How Effective is the First Chapter of Dickens’ “Great Expectations” Pages
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Great Expectations was Dickens’s 13th Novel and was first published in the magazine which he worked for which was called All Year Round. As the novel was first published in a magazine he had to keep his weekly customers hooked on the story of his book so he was always aware of his audience.

The book reflected the time it was written in like a mirror image because, in 1861 it was the industrial revolution and that was the time that the story was based in. Charles Dickens was born in to the industrial evolution where there was a disparity and this was also shown in the narrative but not in chapter one. When Charles Dickens was young he was sent to a blacking factory to work for little wages. His father fell in to a lot of debt and was sent to debtor Prison because he had used too much money entertaining and retaining his social position. After a few months their family could leave the debtor prison but their financial problem only improved some time later when they inherited money form his father’s side of the family. Charles dickens showed his views on the disparity of that time through his book and people became aware of that when he became a vigorous social campaigner for the rights of people

When Dickens was ten him and his family were relocated to 16 Bay ham Street Camden Town London. The move from country side to the city showed how powerful the attraction of the industrial revolution was to whom so ever was in the area of England. The attraction was so strond that people who provide labour in rural areas moved to the city to look for a better life, but when they arrive they found an overcrowded, unhygienic place with disease and disparity. The disparity between rich and poor was so great that you were rich if you had two or more rooms in your house.

The novel is based on a boy called ‘Pip’ who has ‘Great Expectations’ of becoming a gentle man. He is expected to go to the top of the class of people who are rich and well thought of. Great Expectations was the Thirteenth novel of Charles Dickens and was written towards the end of his life. It was written in instalment in a weekly magazine so at the end of each instalment he had to leave a cliff hanger so his audience would want to buy the next issue of the magazine so that they could read the next instalment.

The first chapter of the narrative would have probably been the first instalment of the book and it would have given you a lot of important information on the main characters. The first chapter also gives you important information on the action and the plot of the story and basic information on where the story is going to go. The setting is vital for the atmosphere because the atmosphere actually makes up the tension which makes you want to keep reading. The themes which are introduced in the first chapter really add to the tension and suspense which keep the story going. These themes are eventually built throughout the story keeping the readers hooked.

To keep the readers hooked you need a good line up of characters. The Characters which are introduced to us in the fist chapter are Pip, his sister, Mrs Joe Gargery, her husband, Mr Joe Gargery, Magwitch, the convict and the convict with the scar on his face. Pip is described to us as a small and undersized boy for his age, ‘Though I was at that time undersized foe my years’, this was probably because he was in a poor household but he wasn’t unhappy about that. Mrs Joe Gargery is shown to us as a control freak who has total control over her husband and her little brother. Joe Gargery is shown to us as the better influence on Pip. Pip is shown to get his good manners and respect to all people from Joe and not from his sister.

Pip is shown to be describing the event which makes this novel an autobiographical fiction narrative. This makes him the narrator in the narrative. We sympathise for Pip because he is a small, young boy who has no parents and his name means small seed which makes him sound even smaller and insignificant.

One of the tools that Dickens uses is characternyms which are names of characters which tell you what type of person they are for example Estella is Latin for star which already tell us that she is a cold person but everyone is attracted to her. This was just one example of characternyms.

In the first chapter humour was also used when Pip couldn’t pronounce his full name ‘Phillip Pirrip’, ‘My infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called my self Pip, and came to be known as Pip’.

Pip is described as a young and small boy ‘undersized for his years’. This shows that he is small and insignificant in the world but he is happy with who he is and is going to be.

The convict is described as ‘a fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg.’ By the first impression of the convict he seems to be a man that is desperate and ruthless who will get rid of anyone to get what he wants. Dickens slips in a bit of humour by making the convict say, ‘what fat cheek you ha’ got.’ This is funny because he is threatening Pip so he will do what he wants and he isn’t actually going to eat his cheeks.

The language that Dickens uses to describe Pip and the convict are mostly small and short words like scratched.

The characters in the rest of the novel are Miss Havisham, Estella, Mr Jaggers, and Mr Pockets. These Characters do develop but Miss Havisham, Estella and Mr Jaggers stay the same. Magwitch is shown to be a mean and desperate convict but later in the story we find out that he is a hard working man because when he got shipped out to New South Wales he started sheep farming and now he is famous for it.he is also found out to be a caring man because he protects Pip from the anger of his sister by saying that he had stolen the food from their house and not Pip bringing it to him.

Because Magwitch took the blame for the food and the file it allowed Pip to better himself. When Magwitch came back to see Pip and Puts himself in Danger it shows how much he cares for him and will do anything for him. Even though this leads to the death of Magwitch after a thwarted escape he doesn’t regret anything he did.

When Pip became a Gentle man he started off well until the Miss Havisham episode were she burned alive and the money situation. After that he became very depressed and was really downhearted. When he became a gentlemen he also became snobbish because of the lifestyle he was living, and you could see that when Joe came to meet him in London and you could tell that he was ashamed of Joe.

When Magwitch tells Pip that he is the person who made him a gentlemen and he will be inheriting the money it is a shock to him at first because he though that Miss Havisham was the person who made him a gentlemen. Now that he knew how much Magwitch was risking to come and just meet him he helped to get him out of the country.

By doing that good deed he shows his good inner character. He also shows his good inner character by always loving Estella even though in the start she was always breaking his heart.

In the whole narrative there are four themes, gentlemen and respectability, crime and punishment, parents and children and power and powerlessness.

Gentlemen and respectability is introduced in the first chapter by Pip giving Magwitch food, calling him sir, doing as he says and by bringing the best food which they were saving for Christmas. This theme is developed through out the book using the events, Bently Drummel rejecting Estella when he finds out that she is the daughter of a wanted convict and when pip doesn’t reject Estella even when she is mean to him.

Power and powerlessness is introduced when Magwitch is holding Pip on the tomb stone and when Mrs Joe Gargery has total power over her husband. This theme is developed through out the book using the event s, of Miss Havisham, Mr Jaggers and Magwitch control Pip and Estella and Pip has control over Joe when he comes to meet Pip in London.

Parents and Children are introduce in the first few line of the book when pip talks about his parents being dead and he being an orphan with his married sister. This theme is developed through out the play using the examples of, Pip and Magwitch, Estella and Miss Havisham and Jaggers and Magwitch.

Crime and Punishment are introduced in the first chapter when Magwitch says that the ‘Young man will punish’ Pip. This theme is developed through out the story by using the events of Magwitch escaping from the hulks and when Pip goes to Mr Jaggers office in the centre of London he has imprints of his finest clients faces just after they were beheaded.

The setting of a narrative is very vital tool, accompanying the language used to create tension just like the themes used. The time in which this novel was written was when the Industrial revolution had started and the major cities were very crowded, this encouraged the spread of disease and due to this the life expectancy was very low and it was common for children to die at a young age. As it was a time of great disparity there were a lot of petty thefts and for that people were sent to jail without a trial, therefore the prisons got overcrowded and they had to start sending people to hulks or prison ships.

The first chapter of the narrative was set in marsh land which was grey, bleak, isolated and tended to be where people buried their dead. The place was so isolated that the nearest sign of civilisation was a small town, one mile away. We could tell that the marshes were isolated from civilisation because when Pip was in the grave yard at his mother and father’s grave, all you could see for miles was forsaken marsh land. This would be a perfect place for a convict to hide from the law as we found out when Pip bumped in to Magwitch the convict. In the last chapter Dickens talks a lot about the scenery of the marsh land and it actually relates to later on the in the novel because it says, ‘the beacon by which the sailors steered’, this is referring to Pip as the sailors and Estella by which he steers.

The time at which the chapter is set is vital component to the setting because it creates the mood that keeps the reader hooked to the story. The time at which the chapter was set was dusk which gives the perfect mood for scary events such as an escaped convict creeping up behind you and putting a knife to your neck. Dusk and night time is conventionally a time of scary events happening.

The weather of the chapter is another vital component of the setting because just like the time of day it creates a mood that keeps the readers hooked on the story. A tool that Dickens uses is pathetic fallacy which is when the weather is made to express the characters feelings and worries. Dickens uses the repetition of the clauses in the third paragraph to highten the tension to emphasise the isolation of Pip as a small and insignificant thing.

The language that is used to describe the weather are lines like, ‘the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing,’ this makes the weather sound like a savage beast breathing so heavily from his lair that it is making the wind rush. The language that is used to describe the marshes are lines like, ‘down by the ,within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea,’ this makes the marshes sound like a place where on one side there are mud flats with overgrown vegetation and on the other side there is the sea. These two things tie in with Magwitch surprising Pip because it builds up the right mood for an escaped convict to jump on the first person he looks upon and in this case this is Pip. In the last chapter before the end of the paragraph, pathetic fallacy is used here by portraying Pips worries of the young man coming and ripping his liver out and eating it.

Another vital tool used by Dickens to hook the reader to the story is the atmosphere which is created by the themes, language and setting. The mood of the chapter appears quite dark through out the chapter because of the language used to describe the setting. He used adjectives such as ‘bleak’, ‘savage’ and ‘distant’ which makes the mood and content of the the narrative very dull and dark. The fear for Magwitch is built up over the time of the first few paragraphs using the setting, the language and the atmosphere which is built up using the first two. The effect of this on the reader is that it builds up tension and suspense for them and it is the equivalent of a movie thriller. He also slips in some humour so his readers don’t get bored of the very dull atmosphere of his book. He makes it funny by making Magwitch run away when Pip points at his parents grave and when Magwitch turns Pip upside down and shakes him for any food.

Dickens has another technique up his sleeve to engage out interests and that technique is using cliff hangers. He gets us interested in the next chapter by leaving us at a point where we have so many questions our mind is drowned with them. The cliff hanger at the end of the chapter is that Pip is running home after being told by Magwitch to get some food and a file for him and that a young man will come and kill him if he doesn’t. The other questions raised in the mind except for the ones about Pip are the ones about the young man, they are, ‘does the man exist’, ‘Is he worse than Magwitch’ and ‘will he kill Pip if he doesn’t do as he is told’.

The ending of the chapter and the description of the scenery make the cliff hanger even more intense because it adds even more tension because of the descriptive language such as, ‘the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed. When Pip is frightened again it makes us think if he is coming back again and that intensifies the cliff hanger even more by adding to the tension. The beacon and the sign of punishment tell us a lot about the story but you only notice them if you know the whole story. The beacon signifies Estella and the other one signifies the punishment that Magwitch receives. As Magwitch is referred to as a ‘pirate’ by Pip, he is sentence to the same fate as captured pirates would have received, death by hanging.

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