Charles Dickens is renowned through out literature for his skills of vivid description and imagery. In Great Expectations he uses many effects to create settings of emotion throughout the novel. The first of the three most effective and memorable settings, I feel, is the graveyard setting. This is where we meet Pip and his story of success and hardship over the odds.
We meet Pip in the graveyard along with another six members of his family however they are all deceased and it is Pip who is seeing them alone. This tells us a lot about the time he lives in it shows that mortality rates were high and children were let out alone at dark, this differs very much from the modern day where young children are most of the time supervised and very rarely allowed to wander graveyards alone in the dark, the mortality rates have also decreased as well.
We also learn early on that Pip has no real expectations, that he is around lower class and that his life, as with everyone else in his situation at the time, particularly children, was a universal struggle. We learn this from the line: “Who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle” it is as though to say that they gave up hope and by the amount of tombstones with the Pirrip name on them he should of too.
Pip then begins to describe the marshes where he lives, a marsh, much like a swamp, is a place ridden with disease and danger, it resembles the life at the time of Pip and the life he will have to struggle to achieve in. Pip recites the marshes to the reader explaining how he remembers it on a “memorable raw afternoon, towards evening” the word ‘raw’ reminds us of meat and the colour red it could also be used to describe pain when body parts are subjected to the cold, which gives us an idea for how Pip is dressed and how he is feeling, yet on the other hand it could be used to show that although the place of his family’s burial dangerous and painfully cold, he still comes to pay respects because that is what kind of generous, good willed and kind hearted boy he is.
Dickens then calls the marshes a “bleak place overgrown with nettles” the word ‘bleak’ gives us imagery of an open and plain canvas he then continues to add ‘overgrown with nettles’ as to make the reader see it as a dark, damp place over ridden with nettles and pain, this ties in well with the idea of the pain Pip feels the loss of parents and brothers. The word ‘bleak’ also shows how alone the surroundings are and how alone Pip himself is both in this setting and in general.
Dickens goes on to say “the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard” the word ‘wilderness’ reminds us of the wild and of dangerous beasts. It also links back to the term ‘raw’ reminding us of meat and animals, overall Dickens is using imagery to describe the marshes as a wild dangerous place that beasts and other dangers roam free, it appears no place for a young child.
Dickens continues to use imagery about the marsh saying, “the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing was the sea” it leaves a feeling that all on this scene are inhuman, that rather than it being nature with the wind, but instead a monster rushing it from his lair. The word ‘savage’ is a word normally used among beasts in the wilderness. It is to suggest that the marshes are a place of beasts, monsters and danger, which is proved by the convict Magwich and his murdering friend, which to young boy Pip are seen as monsters.
It is then that Dickens becomes the narrator and Pip is introduced in third person, yet he is introduced more of an object than a person with the words “the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.” Pip is portrayed as more of an object than a person, a small object. The term ‘small bundle of shivers’ shows Pip as a bag of emotions and weak, although Dickens says ‘growing’ we still have no idea of the looks or size of Pip. So we can only judge by the feelings he shows which appear tearful and even though he is in the graveyard alone at dark and there by appearing to be mature but then it becomes clear he is just a young boy, feeling alone and abandoned.
From this gain a lot of information about Pip’s surroundings and background but not so much about the present Pip we realise he is abandoned and alone but not much more. Dickens uses imagery and metaphors to create a gloomy and sad out look on life yet creates a challenge for Pip to prove everyone wrong.
After the marshes we then read about Satis house. The giant mansion is owned by the deathlike Miss Havisham, jilted at the alter and who’s plan in life is to destroy men’s hearts. To do this cruel task she enlists Estella, a girl brought up to be cold and heartless and to destroy men’s hearts. ï¿½Estella is Latin for star which in some ways can relate to Estella the character, like a star she is cold and distant, she is also a far off point Pip strains to attain, like a star which is impossible to attain.
When Pip enters Satis House Dickens uses subtle events and remarks in order to give both the brewery and the house as a whole and ever increasing sense of ruin and decay. He uses the weather, “The cold wind seemed to blow colder there, than outside the gate” this subtle change in temperature and weather means the reader immediately conjures a sense of increased danger and foreboding about the whole house, as though a ghost, possibly of Miss Havisham’s freedom, haunts the place, unable to escape.
Within Satis House all the clocks are stopped at twenty minutes past nine. This is when Miss Havisham was jilted. It shows a sense of decay and abandonment of both the house and Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham in the way that she is almost a ghost, it is as though Miss Havisham’s soul stopped at twenty past nine and that her soulless, mourning body has continued on to live and ruin others lives with no morals.
We then meet Miss Havisham. Pip is taken to her room where, when waiting to go in, the corridor is said by Dickens to have “an airless smell” like the rest of the house it is decayed the airlessness could represent a coffin or death itself as you need air to live and this house appears to be dead, as do to some degree the people within.
In the room Pip enters there was a fire “a fire had been lately kindled in damp old-fashioned grate, and it was more disposed to go out than to burn up” a fire can often symbolise life, light and sometimes hope, but even a powerful flame can not over power the dampness and loss or death smothering this once beautiful house.
Dickens also compares the house to the first setting of the marshes with the phrase “like our own marsh mist” dickens has already imaged that the marshes emit disease and it is as though around miss Havisham she gives of a contagious deathly disease that catches everyone who meets her. It could equally give off the idea that the marshes are hard to escape and bring a gloomy life to whoever encounters them.
The room in which Miss Havisham lives in can in someways all the objects mimic Miss Havisham. To begin with there is the “wintry branches of candles” the candles symbolise romance and love but like a witch miss Havisham has cast a spell on them causing them to become painful and cold like herself. The grandest description is of a wedding cake once beautiful but now gone rotten and moulded. This could resemble miss Havisham’s looks, as she was once a beautiful woman to be wed to the love of her life but after being jilted she has become sour and rotten. The grand table in the middle is where miss Havisham is to be laid when she dies another sign that the room is her life and soon to be her death.
Miss Havisham’s speech is short and bitter she uses few words and orders Pip around yet with Estella her tone is more polite this shows how different her views of men and women are and although Pip is kind hearted and much better willed than Estella she still believes that Pip is scum, this is another point of Charles Dickens continuous metaphor through out his books that poor people although have less money have much larger hearts and the rich have always looked down upon the lower classes, Miss Havisham is evidence of this point at this time in the novel, how although nicer Miss Havisham and Estella still look down upon him.
Overall this setting is a prime example of Charles Dickens underlying background through out his novels of the class war but it also shows how love bites and how what goes around comes around. This setting has many morals with in It, and it shows miss Havisham as a victim turned bully like so many others in this novel.
When Pip continues to London to make himself a Gentleman he first goes to Jaggers’ office.
Jaggers’ office is much like Jaggers’ himself, cold, precise and cynical. The office shows what Jaggers is like before he even meets Jaggers properly. In Jaggers’ office he has two chairs one his own, “high-backed chair was of deadly black horsehair, with rows of brass nails round it, like a coffin” this gives off a statement that Jaggers is a man who likes to show off his money and could be perceived as cruel in modern times for having an animal slaughtered for a chair. The chair also reminds Pip of a coffin and some cases Jaggers has done in the past has lead to the death of people so it is as though he is proud of his wins and cares little about the others that must fall for him to rise.
Jaggers chair is also larger than his client chair and he uses his height and power to dominate the client often to the point of fear as many have backed up against the wall directly opposite the chair “being greasy with shoulders” showing that not only does Jaggers scare his clients he makes them sweat possibly with the threat of losing the case and them having to face the consequences if they do not co-operate.
The two death masks in Jaggers’ office show how he likes to intimidate his clients and shows the readers how he is often immoral taking on cases he is well aware he may lose but that he will still gain profit form, however at the same time there is a sink in the corner. Sinks are where you wash your hands which is a symbol of the matter being nothing to do with you anymore and instead you will just watch it and take no part in it, just view the consequences and in Jaggers’ case, profit it also shows that although he does not have many he does still have some morals.
Jaggers has a constant smell of soap due to the amount of times he washes his hands this shows how he is trying to escape the corruption that was ripe in the courts at the time of writing this novel yet the smell of soap is a way of trying to taint him not to.
ï¿½Dickens also does a small passage about a Jew who appears to be annoying and easily dislikeable this shows both the prejudice at the time of writing and the prejudice shown by Dickens through out his novels, as in olive twist Fagin is portrayed as greedy and immoral. In the present day this is unlikely to be in a publishable book and never would be published in sections of a newspaper, like Dickens novels were.
Although there are little furnishings in Jaggers’ office you can draw an overall image of Jaggers’ personality from the description given in the novel. You can see how the little furniture could mean that Jaggers’ does not enjoy getting close to clients; you could equally see it as a way of showing how he is a very work orientated person. But overall it gives us an image of a man who is much like his work a moral job, a moral man, who although tempted by corruption does his best to do well, yet re-enforces Dickens background view that with money comes the personality of a ‘snob’ so because Jaggers’ is rich yet at the same time not he appears a nice person, unlike the wealthy Miss Havisham who is a rich bully.
In conclusion the settings in Great Expectations show a relationship between the setting and the main person featured with in it. It is as if each character has been moulded to the setting. Dickens uses his renowned descriptive writing to almost introduce each character, as the novel progresses the characters will develop and the settings are important in showing this development. I think that the most memorable setting is the graveyard setting but the most effective is Jaggers’ office as it really helps the reader understand the personality of Jaggers which although the marshes and Satis House do I feel Jaggers’ office is particularly descriptive and uses good imagery, such as the imagery of the chair where you can imagine it instantly and you can equally imagine him looking down on his client.
I think Settings are the most important part Great Expectations because of the way they describe a character but also because the language used in this modern day is a lot more different to that used in the 1800s but the settings have a more readable English to me as well as that I think that the characters are based around the settings because at the time this novel was written I feel Dickens was trying to personalise this novel to the readers and to the universal struggle of class war and success against the odds.