Having read ‘Great expectations’ how effective is the opening chapter
A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteedOrder Now
In this essay I will be focusing on the novel, ‘Great Expectations. ‘ Charles Dickens was a 19th century writer which affects his writing and language used within the novel. He has also written many other famous books such as “Oliver Twist”, “The Christmas carols”, and “David Copperfield”. The novel, ‘Great Expectations’ is set in London in the 19th century. It is about a young boy called Pip, ambitious to become a gentleman; He starts off as a nai?? ve, innocent, young boy growing up in a working class family who is then tainted by wealth, desire and pride.
He develops his working class status to grow on to a higher class status, however he finds out human values are much more important than pride and wealth. In order to entice the reader to the rest of the novel Charles Dickens employs a variety of techniques and narrative hooks in the opening chapter. Within the opening chapter Charles Dickens exploits engaging characters such as Pip goes on to the outside world where he meets Magwitch, in which he learns that the world was not as simple as he assumed it to be.
Charles also uses dramatic action and mysterious setting in the first chapter to hook the reader to the rest of the novel. The use of pathetic fallacy is also developed in the first chapter, where Charles uses the presentation of nature possessing human qualities. The theme of crime, childhood, and class is explored throughout the novel largely through the characters. In the novel, Philip Pirrip or Pip is the protagonist who expects great things from life.
Great Expectations is told by Pip in his own semi-autobiographic voice, tracing his life from his early days of childhood until adulthood. Pip is introduced in the opening chapter, he is in a graveyard, the quote which makes this noticeable is “a bleak place overgrown with nettles” the graveyard is described as sad and lonely, and this is a use of pathetic fallacy because it is a reflection of Pip’s feelings; the word ‘bleak’ also reveal to us that along with the graveyard being bleak, Pip’s future is also bleak.
Pip makes a juvenile assumption on his parents appearance, “I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly” Pip’s innocent mind hallucinates about the appearance of his parents from their tombstones; his misreading of the situation represents a lack of communication. This creates sympathy for Pip because the reader knows that Pip’s childish assumptions are shadowed from the truth. Although very young, Pip had plenty of experiences with death; he had a limited ability to cope with what had happened.
The evidence for this was when he had cried for no apparent reason “… afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip”. In paragraph 3 Dickens also uses the phrase “and that” 6 times, Dickens uses long lists instead of placing separate sentences to give the impression that Pip took everything in even though he was innocent. The odds were piled against him. Even the weather is bad, with the wind rushing. When Magwitch was first introduced, we were not given a warning. He just “started up from among the graves”.
The actual confrontation with Pip and the convict is sudden and is quite shocking, ” Hold your noise! ‘ cried a terrible voice, as a man started up” this quick, spontaneous meeting creates suspense and tension giving the convict a more frightening appeal. The fact that Magwitch was a convict was made clear by the “great iron” on his leg. The reader now has a very good reason to be afraid. The tension is growing because we are now scared for Pip. As we learnt more about a character and his capabilities, we begin to expect an event, or guess what might happen.
In Magwitch’s case, when he said “keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat” we now know that Magwitch will scare Pip into obedience, it also gives the reader the expression that Magwitch is rather spiteful and offensive. Dickens then continues to describe Magwitch as “A fearful man, all in coarse grey” This description is characteristic of a convict. Moreover, by spelling some words so that they are pronounced phonetically, ‘Pint out the place’ shows that Magwitch lacks an amount of education.
Magwitch uses informal language “hold your noise! as well as formal, we see traces of Magwitch’s intelligence as his formal language is well-spoken an example of this is, “The question is weather you are to let her live. ” Magwitch sounds intelligent saying this, however his intelligence has not come from education it has come from his own doing, what he has piled up in his own life time. As the opening chapter is set in the graveyard this foreshadows on what happens to Magwitch, seeing that he dies at the end. In contrast, Pip acts as a dynamic character throughout the novel and undergoes many changes through the course of the book.
One of the causes for Pip’s change in the novel was predominantly from after he met Magwitch in the first chapter. Pip, is a gentle character to begin with, his traits include humbleness, kindness, and lovingness and these traits are most likely the root of his childhood poverty and appreciating life where it stands. When he meets Magwitch in the first chapter, a thief and future benefactor; Pip’s kindness goes out to help him, by giving him food and clothing him. Magwitch tells Pip that he’ll never forget his kindness and will remember Pip always and this is the beginning of Pip’s dynamic change.
Another reason for Pip’s change is because of his sister’s, Mrs. Joe messages, which fuels him with desires, ambitions and snobbery. When Pip is first given the great news that he has received money from a mysterious benefactor, as Jaggers states; “the name of the person who is your liberal benefactor remains a profound secret,” Jaggers’ is another forefather figure of Pip and is Pip’s guardian whilst he was in London. Although the money he receives is off Magwitch, Pip assumes that Miss Havisham has given the money to him; this is evident from the quote, “Ah! I knew directly.
Miss. Havisham’s relation” he comes to this conclusion because he thought that Miss. Havisham sent her relation to tutor him as well. This large amount of money allows Pip to become snobbish, as now he can look down on the lower class people. Moreover this results to Pip becoming so snobbish that he starts to neglect and look down on the people who have loved and cared for him during his life, (Joe and Biddy. ) Joe provides food and clothes for Pip and Biddy tutors Pip, helping him with reading and writing, as he is not very literate. However, when Pip and Magwitch’s character changes during the course of the novel it is quite shocking.
This is unexpected as Magwitch is the convict in the beginning of the novel then comes out to be the benefactor of Pip. Pip finds out that it was really Magwitch who gave the money to him to become a gentleman. This was Pip’s dream. As he finds out Magwitch sent the money for him to become a gentleman when he mentions this in chapter 39 “Yes, Pip, dear boy, I’ve made a gentleman on you! “, it opens Pip’s heart to realise the pain he has caused to many people because of his snobbery, as he even started to hate Magwitch during the course of the novel.
Magwitch sends this money in order to thank him for helping him in the marshes. After finding out about this, Pip and Wemmick persuades Magwitch to get out of England because Pip does not want Magwitch to get an execution on his hands. The convict persona is later altered and modified by Dickens in the novel as he presents the ideas that Magwitch is affectionate, caring and does not deserve his earlier hardships. The idea of the character being a convict may cause readers who have strong opinions already developed to be bias against him.
Dickens still expresses his views on injustice and the drawbacks of the social system effectively. In chapter 42 Dickens draws flashback techniques, Magwitch talks of his first memories as a young child he says, “I first become aware of myself… a-thieving turnips for my living. Someone had run away from me… and he’d tool the fire with him and left me very cold. ” This shows how society has neglected orphans his first memories is of stealing and being betrayal. In chapter 1 Dickens uses his characterization skills to build up the character of Pip, the name ‘Pip’ already gives the reader the impression about his character.
In addition Magwitch’s name also gives the impression that he is lethal because of the end part of his name, ‘witch’. Further on in the book in chapter 8 we are introduced to Estella and Miss Havisham, Pip is sent to ‘Satis House’ to ‘play’ where he meets a beautiful but cold-hearted, Estella and a rather eccentric Miss Havisham. The reader already has a subtle impression of Miss. Havisham from the last part of her name “sham” this means to trick people. Her character is not exactly believable to the readers. Miss.
Havisham is very vengeful, ever since that day she found out Compeyson had betrayed her as he did not turn up to their wedding. Estella, Miss. Havisham’s adopted daughter, Estella belittles Pip and looks down on him as she thinks Pip is a hoi-polloi. Estella is condescending towards Pip making him believe he is nothing, “‘He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy! ‘ said Estella with disdain, before our first game was out ‘And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots! ‘ ” This gives Pip a very negative view on his own class, Pip takes these comments to heart; perhaps if Mrs. Joe had not been so cruel to him then he would have ignored Estella.
If he did not listen to Estella, he might not have been so ashamed of himself and possibly not have wanted to go to London and ruined his life. When walking back to his home, Pip begins to feel ashamed of his life. His mind is filled with regretful thoughts such as “that I was a common labouring-boy; that my hands were coarse; that my boots were thick; and generally that I was in a low-lived bad way”. Pip realizes that his personality and perception on his life is changing as he states, “That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me.
Estella is aware of her actions but makes the mistake of thinking that she cannot be hurt by such a destructive way of life. However, later on in the novel after her experiences with Drummle and the passing of time makes her realise what she lost when she rejected Pip’s love. The opening chapter is in the desolate setting of a marshy graveyard. Already an ambience of anxiety and uncertainty has been created. The marsh is a symbol of wilderness, amid which stands a lonely Pip. Pip is physically and mentally alone in his surroundings; he has no sense of belonging. This helps the reader empathise Pip’s helplessness and isolation.
Pathetic fallacy is used in chapter 1, an example of this is the quote, ‘distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing’ the passage is used to create a tense, dark atmosphere but also prepares the reader for the entrance of Magwitch. A ‘lair’ is generally associated with beast creatures for example, bears or lions and together with the wind is rushing creates an image of a beast like creature coming out rapidly towards you, leaving you helpless. This is precisely what happens to Pip when Magwitch emerges from behind a grave, so the scenery is mirroring the character.
As Pip’s and Magwitch’s characters develop the reader starts to expect an event, this creates tension, and tension is created by suspense. The setting is also a key factor in the first chapter because it sets a spooky atmosphere and also the mood of the reader by saying “a memorable raw afternoon” it makes the reader envision that the weather is the worst thing that is happening but it also describes the graveyard as “over grown with nettles” it makes the reader feel that the place is uncared for a bit like Pip is uncared for.
We are told that it was ‘afternoon towards evening’ indicating it was the time shadows are most likely to be seen putting across a spooky atmosphere with objects taking different forms. Words like ‘bleak’ and ‘raw’ are important as they describe the extreme conditions. Dickens uses colour imagery well within his descriptive writing, phrases like ‘long black horizontal line’ to describe the marshes and ‘a row of long red angry lines and dense black lines intermixed’ works well because using colours increases intensity, as well as using adjectives creatively.
Dickens also uses pathetic fallacy in which an inanimate object takes on the emotions of a human, an example of this in the first chapter is when “raw afternoon” making it seem like a unpleasantly damp and chilly day. Another use of pathetic fallacy within the first chapter is where Dickens describes the sky which “was just a row of angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed. ” the dark blurred surroundings could be compared to Pips Dark blurred thoughts about the convict. Dickens uses black humour a lot during the first chapter.
For example when Magwitch reflects upon thinking Pip’s mum was actually there in the graveyard, “He started, made a short run, and stopped and looked over his shoulder. ” This is a misconception of Magwitch to think that Pip’s mother was in the graveyard, alive, however she really lay deep down beneath the soil, lifeless. Crime and Punishment is a key theme in “Great Expectations” which is linked closely to Justice and Injustice. Pip is introduced to crime and criminals very early on when he is confronted with Magwitch on the marshes.
This encounter compels Pip to steal from his own family, the iron file and the pork pie, “I said I would get him the file, and I would get him what broken bits of food I could, and I would come to him at the batter” This reveals that Pip has a passive personality who fears the stronger emotion in him. So the first crime we see committed is by Pip, which is significant because the book is around crime and how Pip gets more and more involved. Magwitch talks about his trial where Compeyson got 7 years and Magwitch got 14 years.
Compeyson got half the sentence because, “First of all what a gentleman Compeyson looked with his curly hair and black clothes and his white pocket handkerchief and what a common sort of wretch I (Magwitch) looked. ” Magwitch said that he had given up all hope when he said, “I was hiding among the graves there envying them as was in them. ” This definitely shows how poor people and convicts were treated that society did not look after them and that these people felt no sense of place or belonging in the world.
I think that society is using Magwitch, as a scapegoat so that they can charge him for crimes he did not commit so they can feel better about their society thinking it is safer. Whereas the real criminals in the novel are free, for example Compeyson a forger, Orlick a murderer and Drummle a wife beater. Another theme which is also found in the novel is ‘childhood’. In the opening few chapters of the novel Dickens shows his opinions of childhood Pip. Pip is first seen in a graveyard on his own, reading the tombstones of his other family members who he never knew.
We are told that Pip’s first memories are of him on his own finding out that his family are all dead and buried in a church yard “overgrown with nettles”. This isn’t a very nice memory and shows that Dickens feels there’s not much fun to have when you’re a child and that it’s a very lonely time in your life. We see the strength of Pip’s imagination when he takes the convict some food. Pip’s imagination is often found along with another emotion, guilt. Guilt is shown strongly when Pip steals from his sister Mrs Gargery and his imagination shows this through personification.
Pip shows his naivety when he believes if he doesn’t do as the convict says he will be attacked by another man, the young man, ‘I was in mortal terror of the young man who wanted my heart and liver’ this shows how naive children are because Pip believed in a made up man and didn’t think once about questioning the convict about this man. Dickens shows his views of childhood through another character, Estella. Estella shows the reader that Dickens believed that you could create a child in any way you wanted and in Estella’s case she was created to torment men and ‘break their hearts’.
Estella shows us that because of how bad her childhood was she is no longer able to love. We know this because she tells Pip she has ‘no heart’. This tells us that her childhood wasn’t a nice time for her and has scarred her for life. The fact that Pip had no parents was a common link between Pip and Estella and Magwitch. In this novel childhood comes across as being the worst time in your life and that it was terrible to be a child. Furthermore another theme I will be discussing is ‘class’ in which Pip’s ultimate aim is to become a gentleman.
Pip is a stereotypical example of the so-called ‘common’ and is a working class boy. Often we see him lesser than that, for example, when we are introduced to him for the first time, our sympathy instantly appears for him. The way we see him is pathetically sad. Pip describes his world as a ‘universal struggle,’ and we see how Pip looks at life and how his suffering has affected this. Throughout this whole passage, Dickens is underlining the common misconception, made by Victorian people that rich people lived a handsome lifestyle..
Dickens is showing that there is a class separation, but its not always what people expect it to be. Here, the example of Miss Havisham being the opposite of what we had deemed her to be shows that people shouldn’t be judged just by the amount of money they have. Dickens also explains this through Herbert Pocket, where he says, “No man who was not a true gentlemen at heart, ever was since the world began” this is a very significant quote as it directly enlightens the reader on the message Dickens was trying to present to us from the beginning of the novel.
In conclusion, I believe that Chapter one of Great Expectations a perfect opening. The tense atmosphere, which arises from the bleak landscape and the appearance of a desperate convict, grips the reader’s attention completely. The readers raise a lot of questions by the end of the opening chapter, with no answers given. What happened to Pips Parents and Brothers? Who is this strange man? Would Pip return the next morning? If so would the stranger hurt him? Would Pip get found out about stealing the food?
The readers will only find the answers by reading on. Therefore I think this chapter is very successful as an opening. Dickens also uses a range of techniques within the first chapter to entice the reader to the rest of the novel, such as; characterisation, use of humour and suspense. The introduction to the main character drives the plot forward. In general I think the novel shows a disillusioned approach to society in which all of “great expectations” become false.
I think this is because Dickens thinks that society is disillusioned and that great expectations for him personally have never become true. When Pip finally understands that wealth and class are less important than affection, loyalty and inner worth, despite the love for Estella that he holds, he realizes that one’s social status is definitely not related to their real character. Dickens’s passes this message with character such as Drummle, who is an upper class vandal, while Magwitch the convict has a deep inner worth.