Widely considered by many to be Charles Dickens best novel, Great Expectations explores the tale of Philip Pirrip (Pip). Written in 1860 in the height of the industrial revolution, Dickens has focused on the ever increasing gap between rich and poor and solely following Pips story, an orphan who dreams to be a fine gentleman, Dickens opens the themes of expectations, crime and punishment and what it takes to be a gentleman.
Within the opening lines of Pips first person narrative you can feel that he has already created a subdued state of sympathy. He says that his name was “Philip Pirrip,” yet because he had an infant tongue he could not pronounce this he was therefore called “Pip”. Not only is this his name but it creates an imagery of his size and age – small and young. This creates a negative image which heightens the readers sympathy for Pip and Dickens creates yet more sympathy through the setting. We find that Pip is in a graveyard “overgrown with nettles” looking over the graves of his mother, father and five brothers “who gave up trying to get a living exceedingly early” and that “they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets”, in order to evoke empathy for a poor orphaned boy living with his unsympathetic sister. To further the situation of Pip, Dickens reveals that he is not the wealthiest of people as he lives in the “marsh country, down by the river” which gives the impression that he lives in the countryside but it was the city that thrived during the revolution.
From the way Dickens has written the book, Great Expectations seems to be a autobiography, yet although the book is fictional, it seems that Dickens has written about past events and the book could be taken as a memoir. In order to give this effect, Dickens uses a lot of pathetic fallacies; for example “distanct savage lair” and “wind was rushing”. The word savage, creates an image of immediate danger and the word rushing gives the impression of quick movements which all contradict the picture of Pip that as a reader we have in our minds.
Pip’s first acknowledgement of Magwitch is a “terrible voice” saying “keep still you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat” and for any character in any story this would be dramatic. Magwitch is introduced to be a “fearful man, all in coarse grey with a great iron on his leg”. He is described as a “a man with no hat and with broken shoes” which only amplifies the effect on Pip. The fact that he “started up from the graves” only adds to the fear that as a reader we now expect Pip to feel. From first impressions Magwitch seems to be uneducated but yet somehow extremely canny. For example he says “Show us where you live, Pint out the place!” which to me, makes me believe that he was not well educated. However he may have asked to see where Pip lives in order to see if he was in any immediate danger and that shows that he is smart as to not get caught.
Pip is with no doubt terrified and this adds to Magwitch’s dramatic presence, he is a fully grown criminal towering over a boy who could not even say his name and to emphasise this contrast Magwitch turns Pip upside down showing that he is physically superior. It is when Magwitch asks about Pip’s family that their relationship starts to form, however it is not because of being friends, but it is because Pip is terrorised into helping him escape. Magwitch finds out that Pips Sister’s Husband, Joe, is a blacksmith and this can work to his aid by forcing Pip to steal a file to get through the shackles on his legs – “You get me a file, and you get me wittles. Or I’ll have your heart and liver out”. However as Magwitch starts to turn away, Pip’s feeling of this convict change – “He hugged his shuddering body in both his arms – clasping himself as if to hold himself together – and limped towards the low church wall” create the impression that Magwitch is just a vulnerable as Pip is, even though Magwitch is a man and Pip is just a boy. It is this contrast between Pip’s feelings of being scared when he first met Magwitch to sympathy and the difference of Magwitch’s mean and tough side to a very defenceless man which create the dramatic tension in chapter 1. It is because of this contrast that Magwitch can be described as a parody.
In chapter 8 Pip meets another important character who plays a vital role in his life. However when he meets Miss. Havisham, Pip is in very different circumstances to when he met Magwitch. Both characters are at two ends of the social spectrum, Miss. Havisham a very wealthy old lady with a extremely large house and Magwitch, an escaped convict. The difference in the dramatisation is that upon encountering Magwitch, words were exchanged and the meeting of this criminal struck fear into Pip, however the dramatic presence of the meeting with Miss. Havisham is in the setting of the scene.
On arriving at Miss. Havisham’s house, neither Pip nor Mr. Pumblechook received the reception they expected. For Pip the house was not what one envisages of the nobility. “Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred” giving the impression of prison like surrondings. They were greeted by someone raising a window and demanding “what name?”. The expectations of Pip and Mr. Pumblechook were that they both expected to meet Miss. Havisham. This would have given Pip a sense of security and confidence that he was not alone, however it was only Pip who was invited in the house. He was invited in by a young girl named Estella who seems to be of a similar age to him but from first impressions they create the impression that they are both from extremely different backgrounds, Pip being brought up in poverty and a condescending Estella brought up in a wealthy society. It is because of this contrast that Pip’s feelings of insecurity are intensified. Naturally Pip was scared to go into a foreign house with people he had never met before and this natural fear is only enhanced by the darkness he is plunged into once entering the building.
Estella leads Pip down the corridors with a single candle as their only light source, once again heightening Pip’s fear of this house and the people who dwell in it. Pip is led through numerous passages and up a staircase creating the impression of disorientation. On arriving at the door Pip is told to “Go in” to which he replies “After you, miss” and Estella returned “Don’t be ridiculous, boy; I am not going in.” then she leaves and takes the candle with her leaving Pip uncomfortable and afraid.
The room that Miss. Havisham is in, is low lit by candles and has “no glimpse of daylight”. The fact that there is very little light means that when Pip first encounters Miss. Havisham he is unable to see who she is which puts him at a disadvantage as he doesn’t know the surroundings that he suddenly finds himself thrown into. Miss. Havisham is described as a shadow of her former self, Dressed in the wedding dress that she would have worn down the aisle, yet her fiancée abandoned her at twenty to nine on the morn of her wedding. “â€¦ the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes.”
Miss. Havisham is represented as royalty in her house and her grand furniture, however this is not the case, in fact she is a cliché. She has lots of money and so it would seem that her style would be impeccable, and stereotypical expectations would be that she would be beautiful beyond belief but Dickens describes her as “waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me.” proving that the “great expectations” that Pip had were mearly dreams or fantasies.
Pip is forced to play with Estella for the amusement of Miss. Havisham and in turn ends up being criticised by the very hypocritical Estella. However Pip is obsessed with pleasing her yet Estella only uses this is shoot Pip down by castigating him at every opportunity; whether this is the way he speaks or the clothes he wears. Although there is nothing chimerical in the Havisham house, Pip soon becomes self conscious about his life with the Gargery’s. Pip says that he “took the opportunity of being alone in the courtyard to look at my coarse hands and my common boots.” and that “The had never troubled me before, but they troubled me now, as vulgar appendages.” which shows the vulnerability of Pip. He has only been with Miss. Havisham and Estella for a short period of time and yet already they have managed to make him feel worthless.
So it is because of the setting, the people and the dialogue that is exchanged throughout these two chapters that scare, intimidate, upset and mesmerise Pip. I feel that it is the constant changes in the contrast within the social spectrum, the people he meets and the emotions that are twisted which create the dramatisation of Pip’s first life changing moments.
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