Great Expectations is about the character Pip who starts off in the book as a young orphan boy living with his strict older sister Mrs Joe Gargery and her mild mannered husband Joe the blacksmith. We follow him through his boyhood into adulthood and many events that happen in his youth like meeting Magwitch, Mrs Havisham and Estella. In his adulthood he discovers riches and for a time forgets the people who looked after him when he was young until he meets the person who made him rich, Magwitch. Pip returns to his old self and tries his best to help Magwitch who risked execution to see him but he fails. He then finds out that Magwitch is the father of Estella who he has always loved and knows that he can never be with her because Magwitch was like his father. When Charles Dickens first wrote this book he was already a very famous writer and public speaker. As in all of his books this deals with problems of society and sympathises with the poor.
Pip first meets the escaped convict Magwitch Able in the churchyard where his parents and his five brothers are buried. Magwitch threatens to kill Pip if he does not bring food and tools from his brother in laws workshop, Pip, who is very frightened, does so with kindness, to Magwitch’s surprise. When Magwitch is caught while fighting with another escaped convict he tells Joe that he stole food and a tool from Joe’s house and workshop which gets Pip out of a beating from Mrs Joe; this made a bond between Pip and Magwitch.
A few months later Pip meets Mrs Havisham, a very rich woman dressed in wedding clothes that have not come off since they were put on which is before Pip was born. Mrs Havisham lives in a large house, which does not allow any light in it, has all it’s clocks stopped at the exact time and is filled with decaying remains of a wedding like cake and cutlery. She has a twisted mind and tries to use her beautiful ward Estella to break Pip’s heart. We later find out that Mrs Havisham was ditched on her wedding day; since then she never left the house and has stopped all the clocks on that moment so she does not have to know anything of the outside world.
We sympathise towards Pip because he is an orphan and five of his brothers are dead too. ‘As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeliness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs) my first fancies regarding what they looked like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.’ This creates sympathy as Pip has never seen his parents and does not even have a picture of them but also this is comical because he uses the shape of the letters on the tombstones to make a picture of his parents. Also the setting makes us think he is lonely as there is no one around in the graveyard except the dead. Death is emphasised even more when Pip describes gibbets around the marshes, which makes us scared for him. Pip’s social class upsets him a lot after he falls for Estella, she thinks he is lower than her and when asked by Mrs. Havisham to play with him she replies, “But he is a common labouring boy.” We commiserate with him here because he is being thought of as less just for his class by the girl he likes.
The mood in Mrs. Havisham’s house is very awkward as Pip is new and is cautious of his social class especially as he wants to impress Estella. Also he is told by Mrs. Havisham that she has ‘sick fancies’ then he is ordered to ‘play’. “…I am sorry for you, and very sorry that I can’t play just now … It’s so new here, and so strange, and so fine – and melancholy” replies Pip. This creates empathy to Pip as it is so awkward and a little scary for him.
His first encounter with Magwitch the mood is very frightening as Pip is al alone and we have already established sympathy for him because of him being all alone. “Keep still you little devil or I’ll cut your throat!” As these are the first words said to Pip by this man we are threatened. ‘A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a iron on his leg … who glared and growled.’ Then as this is how Pip describes him we feel a lot of sympathy for him as this man is threatening to kill him. Pip’s speech is very good at creating empathy as we see him as a helpless boy, he first does not even have the courage to speak loudly when asked to say his name. We see this when Magwitch has to say, “Give it mouth” to make Pip speak up. Also we then see that Magwitch is in total control as he asking all the questions and giving all the orders and Pip is just making a statement, which shows he is scared, and helpless, which makes us feel for him further.
However we also sympathise towards Magwitch because later he risked death to see the boy who he has only seen once and has regarded him as his own son. We empathise towards him when we find out that his only daughter grew up without knowing who her father is and how he lost his wife. Speech is used to make us feel sympathetic towards him when he first sees Pip after many years and he tells him that it was him who paid for Pip to become a gentleman because of how he was good to Magwitch when he was starving after he escaped. This reveals Magwitch’s soft side and shows that he did not forget the help that was given to him and that he repaid this. When he is sentenced to death the mood is very solemn this makes us compassionate towards him.
Mrs Havisham is the most complex of Charles Dickens’ characters in Great Expectations as we have first impressions of her as being a demented old woman but as her history is revealed we start to sympathise with her. We find out that she was ditched on her wedding day by her husband to be and has not come out of the depression. We feel sympathetic towards her as she has been wronged and that person has not even come to apologise. After she was ditched in those days here prospects were very grim, she could most probably never remarry, as she would almost be tainted by this. Basically her life was over because then all little girls were brought up to think there only goal in life was to get married and have as many children as possible.
Charles Dickens implements a wide range of writing tools to create sympathy towards the characters. He uses historical background to give us information about their past so we become attached to them. Dickens was always known as a sympathiser to the poor and he shows this in his books by showing how one social class treats the other. He creates intense mood, which is sometimes frightening so we will identify with the person being frightened. But without setting there would be no mood and Dickens generates perfect settings for the mood, such as to frighten us he uses a graveyard on the marshes near the hulks with gibbets in the backdrop. Speech is used to present helplessness by stuttering or not speaking much and taking orders. These are some of the ways Charles Dickens applies methods to create sympathy.