How Effective is the Opening of the Novel “Great Expectations” Essay Sample

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This chapter is set among desolate marshes in a ruined graveyard. The weather plays an important part in the opening chapter. Dickens describes the weather as “raw”, and “bleak”. This creates a sympathetic but chilling mood. This is ironic as the setting is ominous for a story entitled “Great Expectations”.

In the first extract we are told that Pip is from a poor background and also that he has never known what his parents looked like or knew them as people. “My first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. “

We also know that Pip had five little brothers who died very young as they gave up the struggle of life. We first meet Pip visiting the graves of his parents and brothers, which shows he is an orphan, this makes the audience feel sympathy for Pip, as he is so young, and without his parents. In my opinion I think we are meant to feel sympathy towards Pip, as he is all alone in the graveyard with no one to turn to. He is at a very low point and is very vulnerable; “…the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.” This is how the adult Pip describes himself as a child. He makes himself sound so pathetic and inferior. This makes the reader feel pity towards Pip.

In the novel Great expectations Pip has narrative authority, which helps us to feel Pips pain and happiness. Dickens develops empathy for Pip in the first few pages dickens states how Pip lives with his sister also by the way Magwitch scares Pip. Suddenly a frightful convict man (Magwitch) appears from behind the graves as if like a zombie. “…a fearful man all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg… A man… A man…” This repetition of “A man” allows the reader to see that although Magwitch is scary, and intimidating he is still only just a man. He grabs a hold of Pip and shouts “Hold your noise… or I’ll cut your throat!” Pip is extremely frightened and intimidated by this man. The Man takes advantage of Pip’s vulnerability and tells Pip to get him some food and a file.

Magwitch appears to be scary and intimidating, because he seems to come out of nowhere. The way Dickens describes him gives the impression that Magwitch belongs in the churchyard because they’re so alike; scary and intimidating. Although Magwitch does appear frightening at the beginning, as you read on you realise that he is very desperate and in a weak position. He needs Pip to be scared in order to survive.

When Pip wishes Magwitch goodnight Magwitch says “much of that! I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!” This shows that Magwitch would rather be anything but a man at that moment because it was such a cold, muddy and wet day which is a suitable habitat for frogs and eels. It also shows the reader a different side to Magwitch. He is not as scary and intimidating as he seemed at first, he is more humorous and like Pip; vulnerable.

Overall, this first chapter of “Great Expectations” is very effective as an opening of a novel because introduces the main characters, Pip and Magwitch first. This allows the reader to identify that these characters play an important part in the novel and encourages the reader to find out how the relationship between these two characters will grow throughout the novel, by reading on.

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