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Central motifs of the novel are established vividly in this volume. Imagery and allusions to crime, guilt, class and death exist throughout".

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Introduction

"Central motifs of the novel are established vividly in this volume. Imagery and allusions to crime, guilt, class and death exist throughout". The structure and plot of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations are intricately designed to create a real sense of continuity in the plot and to ensure the purpose of the novel by referring throughout to the various key issues or characters that are constantly helping to shape the main character, Pip, and his journey through the novel. It is evident that Dickens establishes some of the central motifs in the first volume of the book, but he continues to weave them throughout the wider tapestry of the novel. The motifs are recurring images which, as we trace Pip's journey from childhood to adulthood, become increasingly significant, by acting as a unifying device to link together the central themes of the novel. Dickens builds upon these central motifs by using strategic literary devices, such as imagery and figurative language, to allude to the core themes of crime, guilt and class amongst others, which ultimately support the overall purpose of the novel and create a rich and compelling narrative. Perhaps the most central and important motif is that of the ongoing conflict between the gentleman and the criminal. This is conceivably the most significant as combined they have the greatest effect on Pip and the path he takes through the novel. The theme of conflict between the gentleman and the criminal can be examined separately as each figure is a key motif in itself. The centrality of the criminal in the novel is evident, and this alludes to the thematic concerns of crime and guilt. The criminal status is introduced in the first chapter of the book, with the introduction of the convict, who later becomes known as Magwitch. One of the first things Pip notes about the man is the fact that he is a criminal, which is evident when he describes, "A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg". ...read more.

Middle

This symbolises the fact that Pip is aware of the differences between him and Satis House, and more importantly, him and Estella and this is the point in the novel where Pip begins to realise that he needs to make changes, such as becoming a gentleman, in order to impress Estella, and to win her heart. The motif of the gentleman is also present in later chapters, with the introduction of other characters, such as Jaggers and Matthew Pocket. Pip is heavily influenced by these men, and is in awe of their position as gentlemen of society. He is still conscious of himself but relishes the opportunity to leave behind his working class home and family at the forge, and to move to London to begin his "education as a gentleman". The status and position of the gentleman in society has always been alluded to as something to admire and respect, a view which is no doubt an accurate representation of society at the time the novel was written, but further a belief that has surrounded Pip from early on in the story, a belief that can perhaps be accredited to Mrs. Joe, who is clearly impressed by wealth and wants to impress those she feels are above her. This is unambiguous even early on in the book, when in chapter four, the description of Pumblechook is, "a well-to-do corn chandler in the nearest town, and who drove his own chaise-cart". This perhaps indicates that the materialistic nature of Pip which begins to emerge more obviously towards the end of the first volume is not something born totally after his early experiences at Satis House, and that the influence of the upper classes merely builds upon an early-established view that being a gentleman is something every man should aspire to be. It is obvious that the motif of the conflict Pip faces between the gentleman and the criminal has been well established in the first volume of Great Expectations, but that once Pip meets Miss. ...read more.

Conclusion

Satis House, the residence of Miss. Havisham and Estella, is described as, "of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it", and that, "the passages were all dark". However, it is the description inside the house and of the characters which allude more to the motif of life and death. Miss. Havisham unequivocally alludes to death, as she is described as having "no brightness left". Dickens uses harsh imagery to describe Miss Havisham, and Pip's reaction to this, when he says, "Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage lying in state. Once I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me". This description of Miss. Havisham is very harsh and uses powerful imagery which conveys a strong representation of death. The fact that Pip notices, "that her watch had stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had stopped at twenty minutes to nine", and the depressingly dark and decaying setting, creates a strong allusion to death, a feeling conveyed at each of Pip's visits to Satis House throughout the first volume. In contrast to Miss Havisham and the allusions to death and decay, Estella is described as a "somewhat scornful young lady", but also as a young and incredibly beautiful symbol of life and youth amongst the contents, and other resident, of Satis House. Dickens choice of the name Estella can also be linked to this theme, as the name derives from 'Stella', the Latin translation of 'star'. The name is appropriate as in many ways Estella embodies many of the qualities of a star, in that she is beautiful and bright, and in numerous ways, unobtainable. ...read more.

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