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Analyse the importance of chapter one of Great expectations with regard to character, plot, theme, language and atmosphere

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Introduction

Analyse the importance of chapter one of Great expectations with regard to character, plot, theme, language and atmosphere In modern society, when our children feel boredom creeping over them, they can turn to the technological wonders of our time, such as computers and televisions, and other gadgets and gizmos that have become commonplace in everyday homes. However, in 1861, the time of the great Charles Dickens, there were no such contraptions, and so children and adults alike turned to the entertainment that books had to offer, and would lose themselves in worlds of imagination, fantasy and the impossible. Dickens's Great Expectations is an excellent example of 19th century literature and was even published by serialization in Dickens's own magazine; 'All the year round'. It is a bildungsroman tale that tells the story of a young, poor boy, who is known throughout the novel as 'Pip', that has fantastic, and eventually realised dreams of becoming a respected gentleman. In chapter one, we are introduced to the rather 'larger than life' character Magwitch, the stereotypical criminal who the Victorians all love to hate. Our first impression of Magwitch is, just as Charles Dickens intended, of a frightening and dangerous man whose "terrible voice" terrifies Pip and immediately turns us, the readers against him. ...read more.

Middle

As a boy, he has an innocence and goodness, and, although he dreams of one day becoming a gentleman, is otherwise satisfied with his average life. He judges others, not on first appearance, but on personality and manner, as we see when he first meets Magwitch. As a gentleman, however, Pip becomes arrogant and in many ways a snob, his snap first impressions based on clothes, general appearance and wealth. Indeed, even the name Pip could be interpreted as a metaphor for growth (highlighting the fact that it is a bildungsroman novel), and aptly so, as through the novel we see the young boy's transformation from innocent child to arrogant gentleman and then redemption to decent, good man. It is vitally important that Pip is introduced in the first chapter as he is, utmost and foremost, the novels narrator, but also because he brings into the story a really identifiable character who Victorian readers will feel a great deal of compassion for. When in close proximity to Magwitch, readers will fear for Pip and will want reassurance as to his safety, again creating a hook and encouraging them to read the next chapter. Throughout the novel, Dickens cleverly uses setting to reflect character mood, sustain the reader's interest and bring suspense and tension to the story. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is also interesting to look at Pip's family unit, as portrayed in chapter one. Pip as an orphan, lives with his older sister, who becomes his adoptive mother, and her husband the blacksmith. Although this appears at the outset to be an act of sisterly love and a kindly gesture, we discover upon looking more closely that she is looking after him because it is her duty, rather than because she really cares. She stresses that Pip should be "seen and not heard" and that children should "not be allowed to ask questions". She even goes as far as to hit Pip, when he arrives home late for dinner. This shows the reader that family relationships were based more on fear and respect for authority, than love and that Victorian society tended to be formal and reserved. Chapter one of Great Expectations is extremely effective, very atmospheric and, overall of great importance to the story. It is within this chapter that we are introduced to the main characters, the scene is set and the story's main hook is established. Through Dickens's clever use of description, language, emotive imagery and tantalizing cliffhangers, he manages to draw the reader in, enticing them to read on and experience with Pip his ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and adventurous journey through life. ...read more.

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