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A Close Study of the Opening Chapter of Dickens' Great Expectations

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A Close Study of the Opening Chapter of Dickens' Great Expectations The aims of this essay are to answer the questions - 1. What can we learn about Pip's character and background from the first chapter? 2. What can we learn about the convict in the first chapter? 3. Where is the first chapter set and what impression does this give? 4. How can we tell that Pip is a child? 5. How is this effective as a first chapter? ???????????? The main character in Great Expectations is Philip Pirrip, otherwise known as Pip. In the first chapter we find out that Pip lives with his sister and her husband, the blacksmith, because his parents are dead. We know this because the text says "I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister - Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith". Because Pip never saw his parents and there were no pictures or photographs of them he imagined what they were like. His ideas of their appearances came from the writing and shape of their tombstones. ...read more.


The text says that he was "A fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied around his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared, and growled...". We can tell that the convict is nervous because when he asks where Pip's mother is and Pip replies "There, sir!" The text says, "He started, made a short run, and stopped and looked over his shoulder". The convict seems to become more sympathetic when he finds out that Pip's parents are dead. He tries to make sure that Pip is still afraid by tilting him backwards and saying that there is a young man who will tear his heart and liver out if he does not bring the file and wittles. The first chapter in the story is set in a graveyard in "The marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea". ...read more.


The way that he refers to his mother as "Also Georgiana" conveys that he is young because he does not like to admit that she is dead. The convict calling Pip "You young dog" shows a further indication that Pip is very young. Pip was "Dreadfully frightened and so giddy that" he clung "To him with both hands". An adult, or a person of more mature years, would probably not cling to a convict. At the end of the first chapter the text states that Pip "Was frightened again, and ran home without stopping". It is unlikely that an adult would behave in this manner. This is effective as a first chapter, because you are kept in suspense. It is extremely descriptive and uses original ways to describe things, such as "The marshes were just a long, black, horizontal line". The story includes the classic main characters - the good guy and the bad guy. The author uses Pip's character and background to create sympathy towards him because even though he is an orphan and only young he still calls the convict threatening to kill him, "Sir". ...read more.

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