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Describe how Dickens creates atmosphere and introduces characters in Chapter One of Great Expectations

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Rebecca Jones 10M June 2005 Gothic Literature Describe how Dickens creates atmosphere and introduces characters in Chapter One of Great Expectations. In this essay I am going to describe how Dickens successfully uses tension and drama to create atmosphere and to introduce his characters status, emotions and identity in the opening chapter of Great Expectations. The central character, Pip, is followed from youth as he makes the journey from poverty to riches and back again as he attempts to fulfil his own great expectations. To do this I will be examining in close detail the techniques he used to sustain the reader's interest in the first chapter. Dickens introduces the opening of this novel with death "from their tombstones" and violence "Don't cut my throat!" This is a typical convention of gothic literature. This chapter is set among desolate marshes in a ruined graveyard. The weather plays an important part in the opening chapter "the sky was a row of long angry red lines" and "dense black lines"; "the wind was "rushing". These are examples of pathetic fallacy, this is when the weather is used to reflect what is happening in the story. To create atmosphere Dickens drags out how Pip's family is all dead and how Pip is alone in the world, "dead and buried". ...read more.


Any description he has of his parents or his five brothers are "derived from their tombstones" indicating a childish imagination. Pip has the impression that his father was a "square, stout, dark man" whereas his mother was "freckled and sickly". At this point he suddenly realizes he is all alone in the world and will have to cope "small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry". Pip describes the day he met Magwitch as a "memorable raw afternoon towards evening" in "this bleak place" which expresses how an important but unpleasant event is about to occur. When Magwitch is threatening Pip, Pip still respects him whilst he is trying to defend himself "O! Don't cut my throat, sir!" He also says 'sir' after everything he says to Magwitch. We get the idea that Pip is sometimes frightened or scared in this chapter, "I was frightened" "I pleaded in terror" and "growing afraid of it all". Pip may be scared early on in the chapter when Magwitch, the "fearful man" suddenly appears and starts threatening him. However Pip has another reason to be scared right at the end of the chapter and he lets his childish imagination run away with him. ...read more.


Magwitch also uses some vulgar expressions on Pip when he is threatening him "you little devil". Before Magwitch swears by God "Lord strike you dead if you don't" he keeps tilting Pip backwards, "he tilted me" this is repeated several times to tell us how much Pip is being tilted. A different part in this chapter, where Dickens makes us feel sorry for Magwitch is when he is "[limping] towards the low church wall". This is quite a pathetic image, unlike the one where he is threatening Pip, of a man who may be heading towards the end of his life "A man whose legs are mumbled and stiff". In the eyes of young Pip, he describes Magwitch as though he were "eluding the hands of the dead people," this conveys an image of dead people pulling him in to the grave, which is a classical image of gothic literature "hellish" On the whole, the convict has a sense of humor "I wish I was a frog", he also makes idle threats and his emotions are shown. In conclusion Dickens successfully creates atmosphere and introduces character in chapter one of great expectations with the use of repetition "he tilted me again", metaphors "the low leaden line beyond was the river" and the use of verbs instead of adjectives "lamed" and "stung". Humor is also used to add drama to this chapter "I earnestly expressed my hope that he wouldn't" ...read more.

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