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Charles Dickens Analysis

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Dickens describes life in early Victorian England as a 'universal struggle'. How far do you agree with this assessment based on your reading of the opening chapters of the novel? In the opening chapters of 'Great Expectations', Charles Dickens presents life in Victorian times as a 'universal struggle'. In one way or another, most of his characters are suffering from the harsh ways of these times. Pip, the first character we meet, who has lost both his parents to sickness as well as five of his six siblings. He is now cared for by his elder sister who mistreats him. However, Pip is not the only character suffering, Miss Havisham, a wealthy eccentric women, has locked herself away from the world dwelling on the painful incidents that have occurred in the past. Even though she is from the opposite end of the social spectrum, she is dealing with her own problems, just as Pip is. Also the convict, Magwitch, is suffering from the cold and hunger. He is not a bad person and Dickens makes us feel sympathetic towards him by using descriptive language. Charles Dickens dreamed of becoming a gentleman. However, his dreams were shattered when he was just 12 years old as his father was sent to jail for failure to pay his debts. Also, Charles was sent to work in a shoe polish factory. ...read more.


Dickens uses figurative language to make the landscape and the mood of the first chapters sound heavy. "Low leaden line" this phrase readers to lead a literal heavy substance. At home, Pip is not treated well by his sister, Mrs Joe. However, Pip accepts this and is not self-pitying. He assumes everybody lives like he does, everybody is part of a universal struggle. We also learn that Pip has an overdeveloped sense of guilt; the way he feels about the theft suggests that this is true. He also has a very expansive imagination; "I thought I heard the voice outside, of the man with the iron on his led who had sworn me to secrecy." And "The cattle came upon me with like suddenness, staring out of their eyes, and steaming out of their nostrils, 'Holloa, young thief'" both show that Pip has a vast imagination and an overdeveloped sense of guilt. He even thinks the cattle are against him. From a completely different lifestyle comes the wealthy Miss Havisham. However, she is also struggling in her own separate way, despite the fact she is well off and privileged. Miss Havisham has attempted to seal her self away from the harsh realities of life and shuts herself off from human company. Unfortunately, by blocking out all of this it doesn't help her. In fact, because she is dwelling on the pain that has been put upon her from past events, it has made her feel worse off and more miserable. ...read more.


I strongly agree with this assessment after reading the opening chapters of the novel. He does this in numerous ways; one important point he makes is that Pip is led to believe everybody lives in the same way he does and accepts it. Because everybody is struggling it is universal. Another is that even though Miss Havisham is incredibly wealthy, she is still struggling with the harsh realities of the time; but by shutting herself away she is let to dwell on the pain and no material goods are able to convince her that her life is full of opportunities to find new happiness. Finally, the way Magwitch is given animal characteristics to show how much he is struggling to keep nourished and also the way he is described to portray how he is almost physically dead, whereas Miss Havisham is emotionally dead. These first chapters show that Dickens was truly concerned with the lives of the less fortunate. His two most important reasons for writing were to inform people of the harsh reality of the Victorian era but still provide an interesting, gripping and emotional piece of narrative that is factual yet at the same time contains fairytale aspects. Today, the need for human compassion and just are still as relevant as they were over a hundred years ago. Without these in your life, as Dickens makes clear, you will be part of an epic struggle to overcome the cruelty of life. Alex Bertie ...read more.

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