In this essay, I am going to analyzing chapter 1 and chapter 39 of ‘Great Expectations’ a novel written by Charles Dickens in 1860-1861. ‘Great Expectations’ is set and written in the Victorian era in England, when social class was a huge factor of society. The novel is written as a first-person narrative by the main character of the novel Pip, as an older man telling his life story. The novel is focused on how Pip matures from a young boy into a fully-grown man. Throughout the essay, I will be looking at the dramatic qualities of Dickens writing. To do this I will look at how Dickens uses atmosphere, characterization, and realistic dialogue to create tension.
The opening chapter of ‘Great Expectations’ is extremely dramatic and full of atmosphere. It starts with Pip standing alone in a graveyard next to seven gravestones, which are Pip’s mother, father, and five younger brothers. Straight away Dickens has hooked the readers in to the story by creating a dark and dank atmosphere surrounded by death. Dickens has set the scene in a graveyard to create dramatic atmosphere to hook the readers on guessing what will happen to Pip and how his journey will develop. This helps create an ominous, sad, and lonely mood in preparation for the appearance of the convict. The graveyard is described as a ‘bleak place overgrown with nettles.’ This shows how isolated the place looks and reflect on how Pip is feeling. In chapter 1, we are introduced to Pip as a lonely child, who is quite isolated, innocent, and naive. In the opening of the novel, Dickens creates a ‘dark’ atmosphere-using pathetic fallacy to portray Pip’s feelings. Many of the words used in the opening chapter have a harsh tone to them, such as “dead, buried, savage lair, devil.” I believe Dickens chose these words to create a shadowy atmosphere.
In the Opening scene of chapter 39, Pip is walking home all alone, and is feeling depressed, lonely, and miserable, for example when Pip says ‘I was alone,
and had a dull sense of being alone.’ You can see that Dickens has created a dark, gloomy atmosphere to keep the suspense going to see what is going to happen next.
Both chapter 1 and chapter 39 both start with Pip all alone, feeling upset and down, both chapter are set in the dark, and late in the night. Dickens has done this to create a dramatic atmosphere; to keep the readers engaged with the novel, but also to show the readers how Pip is feeling. Pip in chapter 39 is feeling very anxious and very nervous, as he wants to find out who is his benefactor. However, in chapter 1, Pip also feels the same, as he is nervous, scared, and anxious as to what the convict might do to him. The chapters are both similar in the way dickens has used atmosphere to create a gloomy appearance.
In Chapter 1 Dickens uses many descriptive details to set the scene in a very dreary way. Dickens sets the opening scene in a graveyard; this immediately makes the place feel creepy, gloomy, and sinister. The scene is set in the middle of the “marsh country, down by the river, within … twenty miles of the sea”. Dickens is giving the readers a picture of the setting by describing the scene. One of the techniques used to describe the setting is a list. This also refers to how Pip is feeling at the time.
‘The dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.’
This shows us that that Dickens sets the scene by describing Pip’s emotion by showing the readers how he is feeling. Dickens also uses many verbs to describe the setting, so that readers can imagine the picture in there minds. The description of the landscape in the chapter 1 is extremely intense and is successful in creating an Erie sense about Pips surroundings. The language used prepares the reader and also instills strong images which enable the reader to see how Pip relates to his feelings.
In chapter 39 Dickens has set the scene in London, where Pip has been living. The scene is set very different to the way it was set in chapter 1. Although the scene starts with Pip walking home, where it is all cold and gloomy, Dickens goes on to set the scene in a nice warm room with a fire. This is different to the outside setting in the graveyards in chapter 1. However Dickens still uses descriptive language to set the scene in the chapter by using turbulent images, metaphors and similes,’ The wind rushing up the river shook the house that night, like discharges of cannon, or breakings of a sea”; ” Dickens’ dramatic images and his acute attention to detail maintain the drama and seriousness of the atmosphere in the chapter.
London was a city that was, dominated by men in the 1860s. The social class in London was for the rich people or people who had money. However, in chapter 39 Pip learns that social class has nothing to do with being a good person. Dickens has shown through this novel how divided British society was in the 1860s. The criminal ‘Magwitch’, the poor of the marshes ‘Joe’, the middle class ‘Pumblechook’, and the upper class ‘Miss Havisham’. The setting of chapter 39 is completely different to the setting in chapter 1. London is a big city, which mentioned earlier is polluted by men; it is unlike the naturalistic marshes in which Pip first met the convict Magwitch in chapter 1.
Chapter 1 is dramatic; the sudden appearance of the convict is much unexpected.
“Hold your noise!” cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!”
Dickens has used a dramatic opening line to introduce the convict. This is a dramatic climax in the novel. Straight away, you can see the fear that Pip is feeling and can sympathise with his character. “O! Don’t cut my throat sir, I pleaded in terror.” Dickens changes the writing from narrative to dialogs, to create dramatic tension. This is to make the writing more interesting for the readers and to create anxiety between the characters. Dickens also creates a memorable character, Magwitch by making his character appear strong, aggressive, and violent so that he has a big impact on the audience, so next time he appears he will be remembered.
In Chapter 39, Pip discovers that Magwitch is his benefactor. Dickens heightens the suspense of this discovery through his use of imagery and dialogue. The first thing we notice is that there is a terrible storm. The storm reflects the confusion Pip feels and destruction of the dreams Pip had. This is a climate moment in the novel. When Pip first hears the news that Magwitch is the one who has been supporting him he says, ‘I stood so, looking wildly at him, until I graspedat the chair, when the room began to surge and turn.’ Then Pip realizes the worst thing he has done.”But, sharpest and deepest pain of all … was that I haddeserted Joe.” Pip finally realises that person of low class is responsible for all his “great expectation” but that the man will never fit into the world of expectations Pip himself has created.
In chapter 39, we also see a change in Pips character. As Pip walks towards home, he is snobby and rude, but when he learns about Magwitch is his benefactor, he becomes insecure and betrayed. However, in chapter 1 Pips character is, seen as brave and mature, He listens to the commands of the threatening and scary convict without any hesitation. Where as, Magwitch character in chapter 1 is the complete opposite of Pips character in chapter 1. The convict’s character is rude, aggressive, bad mannered, and immature. However, Dickens has switched the characterization of pip’s and Magwitch characters in both chapter 1 and chapter 39. In chapter1, Pip was the nice character and Magwitch was the bad character, and now in chapter 39 Pip started the chapter by being the bad character, until he realised how he has been acting. It is Magwitch, character that is seen as the good character in chapter 39. He is humble and subservient, and this remains constant throughout the chapter. This is a good technique that dickens has used in chapter1, and 39.
The ending of chapter 1, is dramatic and is left on a cliffhanger to hook the readers. In the Victoria time social class was a big factor to society, people did not have enough money to go out and buy a book. So Dickens used to publish a chapter at a time, for readers to buy. Therefore, the ending of the chapter has to be interesting for readers to go and buy the next chapter, when published. The opening chapter of ‘Great Expectations’ starts with a great hook, there is a vicious escaped criminal, threatening a poor, innocent boy in to helping him survive and escape. The techniques Dickens uses to create a dramatic ending is using a pathetic fallacy ‘the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed’ this is showing us how pip is feeling because red and black colours resemble danger. Therefore, it keeps the audience wondering what will happen next to Pip, leaving it on a cliffhanger.
The ending of chapter 39 is very dramatic, Pip’s expectations are all ruined and destroyed, and his dreams have been crushed .Dickens uses the metapho
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