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How Does Dickens Guide Us to Feeling Sympathy for Pip?

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After reading the classic novel, ‘Great Expectations’, I will be studying two different extracts to try to identify different devices used by Dickens that guides us toward feeling sympathetic for Pip. These particular extracts will be chapters one and eight, because I feel that these show the greatest examples of how Dickens manipulates the readers of this novel to make us feel sorry for the protagonist, Pip. I will also be studying how Dickens’ life was similar to some aspects of ‘Great Expectations’ and how the times and trends influenced this epic novel.

‘Great Expectations’ was first published in 1861, and is considered to be one of Dickens’ greatest works. It has many similarities to Charles Dickens’ life, and is considered to be one of his most autobiographical novels he wrote. Born in 1812 in Portsmouth to Elizabeth and John Dickens, Dickens had an unhappy childhood, with his father often in heavy debt. After nine years living in Kent, Dickens and his family moved to London. In 1924, Dickens’ father was sent to Marshalsea prison after compiling massive debts. Dickens’ mother arranged for Dickens’ seven brothers and sisters to go to prison with their father, but as Dickens was older, at twelve years of age, she arranged for Dickens to work at a blacking warehouse and to live alone. Charles Dickens despised this; he thought he was better than that, so he was ashamed. When his father got released from prison, Dickens returned to school and worked extremely hard to be successful. Dickens released his first novel at the age of twenty-five, and became an instant success and went on to produce some of the most celebrated literary works of all time including ‘David Copperfield’, ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Episodes of Dickens’ early life are echoed in ‘Great Expectations’. Pip and Dickens both lived in Kent, endured unhappy childhoods, worked in jobs that they loathed, considered themselves too good for their environment and found early success in London that they both wanted very much.

Both Dickens and Pip were born into Victorian England, where social status was everything. Social class was no longer dependant on your background, so it could be earned. The author and the novels protagonist both yearned to climb the social ladder and in both instances they succeeded, with Pip rising from a working class blacksmith in marshland to an upper class gentleman in London. This was the typical outline of Victorian fiction- with the central character growing throughout the novel. ‘Great Expectations’ was first serialised in the journal ‘All the Year Round’ in 1861. Because it was published in individual chapters, Dickens had to ensure that each instalment was thrilling and exciting so that the reader would buy the next part. This made every chapter action-packed and exhilarating.

‘Great Expectations’ is written in 1st person narrative, meaning that it is written from Pip’s point of view, when he is older and reflecting on his experiences. Because we view the world and situations through his eyes we are able to empathise with Pip. We share his emotions and thoughts, so this leads us to have a connection with Pip and be on his side.

In chapter one of this novel, the main character- Pip- immediately introduces himself. As he is not only the main character, but the narrator as well, it is important that Dickens’ ensures that we like him and that Dickens’ creates a well-developed character. We instantly warm to him. When he says “my infant tongue”, this shows his young age and we feel sorry for him because he couldn’t even say his own name -Philip Pirrip- and instead could only say Pip. Dickens repeats the name Pip several times in the next few sentences. Dickens used this anaphora to cement the novel’s protagonist name into our heads.

This is then followed by a brief account of Pip’s background. We immediately have sympathy towards Pip as we find out he is an orphan. We see he is a polite young boy as he refers to his sister and carer as “Mrs Joe Gargery'” this is also an indication that his sister is very strict with Pip, which leads us to feel sorry for him. This sympathy is further cemented when we learn he and an orphan and Pip says, “I never saw my father or my mother”. Photography wasn’t around when his parents were, so Pip had to create his own impression of his parents, which was “derived from their tombstones”. The reader can imagine how tragic this is for Pip, as nobody-especially a sweet young boy like Pip-should have to create an image of their parents from their gravestones.

We find that there is also more sorrow in Pip’s life, as next to his parents graves were “five little stone lozenges”, referring to his five brothers that died at birth or in infancy. This description gives imagery, which further gives sympathy to Pip, who as well as losing both of his parents lost “five little brothers”. Pip says that his bothers “gave up trying to get a living exceedingly early in that universal struggle”. We are surprised that someone so young and innocent can come out with this and worried that he describes the world as a “universal struggle”.

Pip later states their names as “Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias and Roger”. This emphasises the sadness and the mood. The list of names makes it feel more real as instead of just being five babies, they now have names. We feel even worse for Pip now. The sheer length of the list added to his mother and father make us feel truly sorry for Pip as his has experienced so much sorrow for one so young. Because he has been through so much, but is so nice, it makes the reader like him. As it is in 1st person narrative, it further cements this feeling. As the reader now likes Pip, we will now feel more sympathy towards Pip because we can empathise with him.

He describes it as being a “memorable raw afternoon towards evening”. This is an example of pathetic fallacy, where the weather matches the mood because Pip is showing his raw emotions. The word “memorable” suggests that something is going to happen in the near future.

We find out that Pip is in the “churchyard”, which he describes as a “bleak place overgrown with nettles” and a “dark flat wilderness”. This gives imagery of a dark, desolate place with harsh plants that reflects the mood. This is a place unsuitable for a small boy like Pip. Dickens uses alliteration when he says “low leaden line” when describing the river. Dickens also uses personification in the phrase “distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing”, this makes us feel sorry for Pip, as it seems that the wind is out to get Pip. Pip then refers to himself in 3rd person narrative, with the metaphor a “small bundle of shivers”. This shows that he is scared; so scared that everybody can see it.

When a “terrible voice” cries “hold your noise”, there is a sudden shock to both the reader and Pip. We feel scared and this fear is heightened when this mysterious man uses the physical threat “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!” This is then followed by lots of descriptive language of the man by Pip with an anaphora of the word “and” linking all the different descriptions together. This anaphora leads us to infer that Pip is breathless and overwhelmed by the situation. He appears to be startled and can’t get his words out quick enough as he has so much to describe because this man is unlike anything he’s ever seen before and is surprised but more importantly very afraid. The man is Abel Magwitch, an escaped convict. He is physically very terrifying, dressed in “old rags”, with “a great iron on his leg”. This tells Pip that the man is a convict and we can see that Pip is shocked and scared. This is then further emphasised when Pip “pleaded in terror”.

This shows he is scared and that he is pleading for his life. We know he is very week compared to the convict when he turns Pip to be “head over heels”. This causes imagery and we imagine the convict to tower over Pip. We feel even sorrier for Pip when we learn that he is “undersized” for his age. He feels sorry for himself and we feel sympathetic as we learn that he has never been normal. Despite this, the convict still insults Pip by saying “what fat cheeks you [Pip] ha’ got”. As Pip hasn’t got fat cheecks, the convict is simply being sarcastic and very cruel. Poor Pip is then even more scared when the convict says he “could eat ’em”.

This must be terrifying for Pip, being threatened to be eaten by a rough convict. We learn Pip mustn’t have a lot when his pockets are turned out and there was “nothing in them but a piece of bread”. This one thing he does have however, is eaten by the convict while Pip stands there ‘trembling’. Magwitch asks Pip “where’s your mother?”, but of course she is dead so he has to “timidly” point to her grave. Magwitch replies to this with “ha”. We feel terrible at the fact that not only has Pip lost his parents, but he is now being laughed at because of it by a terrifying convict. Magwitch clearly doesn’t think much of Pip when he says “you’re kindly let live”. This means he thinks that Pip shouldn’t be let to live, as he’s not worth it. Magwitch also calls Pip an animal when he says “you young dog”. This is very insult and degrading.

Dickens’ uses a contrast in verbs to describe both of these characters. Magwitch’s “eyes looked most powerfully” while Pip’s eyes “looked most helplessly”. This contrast confirms to the reader that Magwitch and Pip are indeed total opposites, with Pip being young, weak and innocent and Magwitch being old, strong and evil. We can see that Pip is a nice child when he says, “if you would kindly please to let me keep upright, sir”. Not only does this show that Pip is “dreadfully frightened” but also shows that Pip is a very polite and respectful young boy, even when a horrifying convict is scaring him. Pip is respectful of his elders, and at all times addresses Magwitch as “sir” despite the fact that he is very scared and is being so ill-treated.

This makes us feel sorry for Pip, because he is such a decent boy with brilliant manners and speaks with proper English and clearly doesn’t deserve this. On the other hand, Dickens’ does exactly the opposite to make us dislike Magwitch and to make him seem rough. The use of colloquial language makes Magwitch appear common and fit the stereotype of a criminal, to be rough, brash and common with bad English skills. Examples of this colloquial language are, “lookee here”, ” ha’ ” and ” ’em”. This contrast in language further emphasises the complete difference of the two characters and is a very clever device used by Dickens because it makes us feel even more sorry for Pip as he is a polite young boy, being bullied by a rough and scary convict.

Dickens then uses an anaphora of “he tilted me again” to show that Pip is helpless and gives of imagery of the convict’s physical strength and Pip’s weakness. When Pip says “went on these fearful terms” it shows that he is very frightened and scared. This fear is then further heightened when Magwitch follows this with a very long threat part of which is Pip having his “heart and liver tore out, roasted and ate” if he didn’t follow the instructions of coming back the next day with food and tools to remove the iron from his leg. This gives the reader unpleasant imagery and makes us further dislike Magwitch and feel sympathetic towards Pip. Magwitch also creates a story of ‘another friend’, which must have been truly terrifying for Pip, to the extent that it would haunt such a young boy for quite a while. This is true, as after Magwitch leaves, Pip “looked all around for the terrible young man”. The convict also repeats the word “creep”. This repetition is very sinister. We can tell that Pip is very scared as the fear manifests itself as a physical thing when Pip stutters on the word “good”.

When we read Magwitch “limped towards the low church wall”, it shows that the criminal is hurt and we finally see weakness in the character. We know Pip is eager to get home and away from the graveyard as he is so scared, but as he starts going, he looks over to Magwitch and sees him “still hugging himself in both arms, and picking his way with his sore feet among the great stones dropped”. This makes us feel sorry for the convict as we begin to see beneath the amour and begin to think that he is not as bad as he appeared. Perhaps being that horrid was out of character for him and was doing it simply as a last result, because he had just escaped and needed help, and saw physical force as the only way.

Pip then describes the sky, with the colour of the sky being “black” with “long angry red lines”. These are colours represent anger and a ‘sinister sky’. As Magwitch “limped” towards a gibbet and some chains “which had once held a pirate”, Pip uses a simile saying that Magwitch was “the pirate come to life and was going to hook himself up again”. For Pip even to think of comparing Magwitch to a pirate it means that he must have been really scared of the convict, and perhaps now that the convict was going to be “hooked up” again, Pip hoped he would never see him again. We can see this fear when Pip “ran home without stopping” because he “was frightened again”.

In this extract, Dickens used many devices to make us fell sorry for Pip. Some of these are that he is a pleasant, polite orphan; he is in such a bleak and desolate setting, and finally Magwitch. Magwitch used physical strength and verbal threats to frighten Pip and to make us feel sorry for him.

In this next extract, chapter eight, Pip has been brought to Statis House, owned by the reclusive but rich Miss Havisham, to “play” by his Uncle Pumblechook. Immediately, Dickens creates imagery of the Havisham household with the use of descriptive language. It was made “of old brick and dismal, and had many iron bars to it”. This initial description makes Statis house seem cold and unwelcoming. The “iron bars” and “walled up windows” are reminiscent of a prison. This must have been scary for Pip, and is unsuitable for one so young. This is similar to the churchyard in chapter one. Both places are bleak and dismal and aren’t appropriate places for such a young and innocent boy such as Pip to be. Both settings are rather scary and the reader feels sympathetic that Pip is unfortunate enough to be in two bad places in such a short space of time.

When Pip says “the cold wind seemed to blow colder there, than outside the gate”, it gives Statis House a strange and eerie feeling. It further emphasised that Statis house is unwelcoming and not very nice. This is an example of pathetic fallacy, where the weather reflects the mood and in this case, reflects how Pip is feeling. Dickens has also used this technique in chapter one, where he used personification to make the wind appear to be out to get Pip. This is a very effective device used by Dickens because, as well as simply describing weather, it gives further insight into the mood of the novel at that point and how Pip is feeling.

From this opening description of Statis House, we feel very sorry for Pip because such a young boy shouldn’t have to go into a scary house, reminiscent of a prison, to play with strangers. We know that he much be frightened, as well as apprehensive about meeting new people.

This feeling of eeriness is further emphasised by the inside of Statis House. Pip enters to find that inside there is “no glimpse of daylight”. This is very unnatural and gives a sinister feeling. In this first paragraph when Pip first goes into Statis House, Dickens uses two lots of ellipsis. This is to give suspense to the reader and to show that the rich and extremely odd setting overwhelms Pip.

When Pip gets his first sight of Miss Havisham, he describes he as the “strangest lady I [Pip] have ever seen, or shall ever see”. From this, the reader is hooked and wants to know why, but we can also tell that Pip is surprised, unnerved and must be frightened. The next part of the chapter is focusing on the descriptions of Miss Havisham. She is “dressed in rich materials-satins, and lace, and silks” and had “bright, sparkling jewels”, this shows us that she is very rich and grand, whereas Pip clearly is not. This is also a three-point list. For Pip to notice, and the use of the anaphora of “and” makes us feel that he is in awe of such materials, and perhaps wishes he was that rich himself. In the description of Miss Havisham, there are several anaphoras used by Dickens to create different effects.

This first anaphora used is “white”. This is to give the impression that Miss Havisham is ghostly and adds to the fact that she’s scary. The next anaphoras are on the words “her” and “and”. These are used to show Miss Havisham is unlike anything Pip has ever seen before and has so much to describe. He is clearly very overwhelmed. This is the same as when Pip first sees Magwitch in chapter one. On both occasions, the new characters had been unlike anything Pip had every seen before and were both rather frightening. Magwitch is dressed in “old rags” while Miss Havisham is dressed in a faded wedding dress. We feel sorry that Pip has had to have two encounters with two strange and scary people.

When Pip looks further at Mrs Havisham, his descriptions start to contrast on what he had previously said. Things that he “thought were white, had been white a long time ago, but were now faded and .yellow.” He also says Miss Havisham has “withered like the dress, and like the flowers”. This simile gives us imagery. Miss Havisham had once owned the “rounded figure of a young woman which had shrunk to skin and bone”. This is a contrast and emphasises the imagery created by the previous simile. Miss Havisham greets Pip with an unfriendly welcome even though she invited him. This makes Pip feel unwanted and continues to make us feels sorry for him. Miss Havisham want Pip to “come close” so she can “look at him”. This is like he’s being inspected and is unnerving. Pip “avoids her eyes” because he is obviously scared by this strange woman.

Pip notices that both her watch and the room clock had both been stopped to read the time “twenty to nine”. Pip must find this very weird. As well as this, Miss Havisham is dressed like a bride with rotting cake and wedding things around her. This is very bizarre and creepy and adds to the strangeness of this character. Miss Havisham further inspects him by interrogating Pip with lots of questions. This is intimidating for Pip. When Miss Havisham asks if he is afraid of a “woman who has never seen the sun since you [Pip] were born?” Pip tells an “enormous lie” by saying “no”. This is admittance that he is indeed scared of her but is too polite to tell Miss Havisham otherwise. This heightens the sympathy felt towards Pip because he is such a nice boy. Like with Magwitch in chapter one, and Estella later on, Pip remains polite and well-mannered despite the fact that he is faced with scary strangers who are treating him badly. Pip also speaks to Miss Havisham as “ma’am” and Magwitch as “sir” and never speaks out of turn. He also speaks with a sense of compassion, even though he is often terrified. This in turn makes us like Pip more, as he is such a pleasant boy.

When Miss Havisham says “sick fancies”, as well as this being very strange, iy lets us know that not very nice things are in store for Pip. Miss Havisham orders Pip to play with the repetition of that word. She forces him to play “there, there! With an impatient movement of her fingers”. This is Miss Havisham ordering Pip around like a bully. Miss Havisham then mistakes Pip for being “sullen and obstinate” when he is in fact just shy and very afraid. This fear is shown in his response because it is very disjointed and full of apologises. He doesn’t know what to do or say, and is full of “fear”. Miss Havisham continues to be rude to Pip when she “flashes a look at me [Pip]”. This shows her anger towards Pip. We don’t understand why she is angry at Pip so we feel even more sorry for him. Miss Havisham is rude, strict and a bully. She was the one who invited Pip to Statis House but sounds like she doesn’t want him there. As a consequence, Pip is very frightened.

Pip is again ordered around by Miss Havisham, and this time it is to call Estella into the room, a girl with “pretty brown hair”. Estella has lived with Miss Havisham since the age of three, and has been raised to break men’s hearts because Miss Havisham was left at the altar many years ago. Miss Havisham hates men as trained Estella to get revenge. When she is told by Miss Havisham to play with Pip, she immediately openly verbally abuses him by calling him a “common labouring boy” and is astonished that she has been asked to even be in the same room with somebody, who in her opinion, is so far below her.

She continues to look down on him when Estella looks at Pip with the “greatest distain”. This is all related to social class, with Pip being a poor working class boy and Estella a rich upper class girl. In Victorian times, different classes didn’t mix, never mind play, and Estella is insulted by even the thought of such a thing. Miss Havisham wants her to play with his so she can “break his heart”. This continues the thought that Estella is very sinister. Pip is clearly still thinking about who peculiar Miss Havisham appears because he repeats “once white, now yellow”. He describes her as looking like a dead person with “death clothes”, a “long veil so like a shroud” and sitting “corpse-like”. These three death similes continue the sinister theme with Miss Havisham and creates imagery. It was obviously a very traumatising experience for Pip as he has “often thought since” about what she looked like. This was written when he was much older, so to remember it so vividly and still think about it means that is must have been extremely scary and would have marked him for life.

Estella continues to openly about him by saying “what coarse hands he has”. From this point, Pip begins to change as a character. He now feels “ashamed” of his hands and is becoming increasingly self-conscious. He “had never thought” of himself with a feeling of shame before but his brief encounter with Estella has made him now feel this way. This feeling is epitomised by the powerful metaphor “her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it”. He describes the feeling of shame towards himself as being infectious like a disease and shows that Estella has made him feel very low about himself. This has made Pip feel very self-conscious and when he was playing cards, he “misdealt as natural”. Estella took joy in this as if she was “lying in wait for me [Pip] to do wrong”.

Estella is clearly having a big effect on Pip, and Miss Havisham wants to find out how he feels about her. As Miss Havisham interrogates him, Pip remains nervous and anxious and displays this physically as a “stammer”. Pip didn’t “like to say” his true feelings about Estella because he was a shy, nice boy and was ashamed at revealing them to a stranger like Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham continues to dig for an answer because she wants to hear bad feelings of how Estella is breaking his heart. She is happy when Pip calls Estella “very pretty” because her plan to make Pip fall in love with Estella is working. She is even more joyful when Pip says she is “very proud”. At that same moment Estella shows even more distain towards Pip when she looks at him with “supreme aversion” as she assumes he is saying bad things about her. To further continue her sinister plans, Miss Havisham lures Pip back when she says “and never see her again, thought she is so pretty?” After Pip says he would “like to go home”, Miss Havisham again orders Pip around when he says, “you shall go soon”. As well as being an order, it makes Pip feel trapped as he has no control. The sinister theme is sustained when Miss Havisham gives a “weird smile” followed by a “watchful and brooding” expression, which gives the impression that she’s spying on him.

Estella continues to despise Pip because she is so far ‘above him’, when they are playing cards. “She threw the cards down on the table when she won them all, as if she despised them for having won of me”. She loathes him so much that she thinks he’s not even worth beating. Miss Havisham again orders Pip around with the command “you come back in six days”. Pip has no choice in this and feels helpless. Estella also orders Pip nastily when she says, “you wait here boy”. She despises him so much that she can’t bring herself to call him by his name and instead commands him as if he were a dog. Both Estella and Miss Havisham think that Pip is stupid. Examples of this is when Miss Havisham says “you hear?” and when Estella denounces him as a “stupid, clumsy, labouring boy”. Estella and Miss Havisham only ever speak to Pip with sinister questions, insults or commands. This shows that they are truly not very nice people. This makes us feel very sorry for Pip, as he shouldn’t be so ill-treated.

Miss Havisham treats Pip simply like an animal when she tells Estella to “let him roam and look about while he eats”. She lets him go without any ‘good bye’ and instead parts with the command “go, Pip”. She hasn’t treated him well all day, even though she was the one to invite him over.

It was a very surreal experience for Pip as he had been in “the candlelight of a strange room for many hours” and had lost all sense of time. Because of the way Estella had had treated him with insults, added to the way how he looked up to her, he now felt very different about himself. Still on his mind were his “coarse hands and common boots. They had never troubled me [Pip] before, but they troubled me now”. Estella had made Pip become self-conscious and very inadequate. Not only was he ashamed of himself, but he was ashamed of Joe, the man he had one admired so much. He was resentful that he hasn’t been more “genteelly brought up” to be a gentleman.

Miss Havisham and Estella had treated Pip like an animal all day, and now at the end, Pip felt “like a dog in disgrace”. This is a powerful simile and explains the situation perfectly. They had made him feel like a common animal that had done something wrong. In chapter one, Magwitch calls Pip “a young dog”. Although this is a verbal insult, it is not as bad, because Pip didn’t feel like he was a dog. However, in this chapter, he had been so mistreated that he felt like a common animal.

Pip felt “humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, sorry”. This list of bad emotions shows that Pip was overwhelmed and feeling so many mixed sensations. This is emotive language, designed to make the reader feel sorry for Pip. He felt so bad that “tears started to my [Pip’s] eyes”. This is exactly what Estella wanted, so she gave a look of “quick delight”. She is happy that her cruelty made Pip cry. Pip doesn’t want to give her this pleasure and didn’t want them to know that they had made him cry. This gave Pip the “power to keep them [tears] back”. Pip was so embarrassed, “wounded” and ashamed that he looks “for a place to hide my [Pip’s] face in”. Pip “kicked that wall, and took a twist at my [Pip’s] hair”. This physical pain was to try and get rid of the mental and emotional pain he was feeling.

In this novel, “Great Expectations”, Dickens has guided us towards feeling sympathy for Pip in many ways. The novel protagonist, Pip, is an orphan, who has excellent manners and is very pleasant. This makes the reader like him, so we will feel even more sympathetic if anything happen to young Pip. Whilst in the graveyard, he had an encounter with Magwitch, who used physical power and verbal threats to terrify Pip and make us feel sympathetic towards him. Pip is also invited to Statis House, where he is verbally and mentally abused by Estella and Miss Havisham. When he leaves in tears, he is not the same person who arrived. We felt awful that such nasty people had changed sweet young Pip. Dickens used many devices such as anaphoras, similes, metaphors and emotive language to guide the reader of this epic novel to feel sympathy towards Pip.

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