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Show how Dickens uses settings in Great Expectations to enhance our understanding of character and the symbolic elements of the plot - Great expectations

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Introduction

Show how Dickens uses settings in Great Expectations to enhance our understanding of character and the symbolic elements of the plot As we notice in the novel 'Great Expectations', Charles Dickens uses many different narrative techniques other than the usual description. One of these techniques is that of describing character through a specific setting. There are a few of these very detailed descriptions in chapter eight (Satis House), chapter twenty (Mr. Jaggers' office), chapter twenty-one (Barnard's Inn), chapter twenty-five (Wemmick's castle) and chapter twenty-six (Mr. Jaggers' house). When Pip first arrives at Satis House (chapter 8 pages 52-53) we have a great description of the setting, and by looking at the adjectives we get more of an idea of the atmosphere it conforms to: "old", "dismal", "empty", "disused", "walled up, "enclosed" and "rustily barred". There is an overall sense of dilapidation, and the last three adjectives in particular remind us of the image of a prison, which appears throughout the whole book. ...read more.

Middle

It is a "dismal" place (Dickens repeats this word four times in one sentence), "melancholic", "rotten", "dilapidated", "crippled", "cracked", "collapsing", "miserable" and "empty" (chapter 21 page 168). In this setting, other than the element of ruin there is an element of death present, especially in the following two sentences: "A frouzy mourning of soot and smoke" (mourning is usually meant by the remembrance of the deceased) and "I opened the staircase window and nearly beheaded myself...it came down like the guillotine" (chapter 21 page 169). Wemmick's castle is one of the most 'normal' households in 'Great Expectations'. It is situated in the district of Walworth, which already tells us something about it and its inhabitants: that they are worth something. It is "a little wooden cottage in the midst of plots of garden, and the top of it cut out and painted like a battery mounted with guns" (chapter 25 page 202). It is an extremely small house, the smallest house Pip ever saw, but its particularity is that it is made to resemble by many means a castle. ...read more.

Conclusion

Jaggers' home is located in the district of Little Britain, which means it encloses most of the negative aspects of life in Britain in those days. It is "dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows" (chapter 26 page 207). The house is made up of a "stone hall, bare gloomy and little used" and "three dark brown rooms on the first floor"(chapter 26 page 207). The "carved garlands on the panelled walls" (chapter 26 page 207) remind Pip of nooses, returning to the element of death. We also notice that Mr. Jaggers' bookcase contains only books about "evidence, criminal law, criminal biography, trials and acts of parliament", and that there is also a "little table of papers with a shaded lamp" (chapter 26 page 208): unlike Wemmick, he has no private life, but brings his work home too. He has no family, no friends: the only important thing in his life is his job. From this analysis we can see that in 'Great Expectations' Dickens uses very successfully many other different narrative techniques other than basic description, and that the portrayal of settings can give us a great deal of information on character and other aspects. ...read more.

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