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Dickens' use of Character and Setting

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How successful is Dickens in using character and setting to both entertain and move the reader? Great Expectations - the Mount Everest of literature - was written by Charles Dickens in the 19th century. As expected with a Dickens novel, each and every thing that appears within this book is described in overwhelming detail. I am focussing specifically on two factors, which influenced greatly in the book's success: character and setting. Charles Dickens grew up in an England that was rapidly transforming. Unfortunately, this led to a significant proportion of the population living in appalling conditions and working in dangerous factories. Because of this, the poor had to steal food, money and anything else in order to sustain their lives. Dickens uses the facts of this industrial revolution by fusing them into Great Expectations to form the foundations of his settings and characters. Humour can sometimes be considered as an unhelpful device when it comes to writing novels. However, Dickens uses it in a subtle yet somewhat noticeable way, specifically during the opening chapters. The first passage of the book creates a funny and mellow atmosphere, "My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. ...read more.


Similar to the house, the potential of being appealing and graceful was there, but it had rotted away and was lost. The dullness of the house and Miss Havisham emphasises the elegance of Estella through contrast. Speech is primarily used for two different reasons in fiction: moving along the storyline or to add to the description of the character. Dickens uses dialogue to add significant information to the character's current emotions. Great Expectations is written as an autobiography of Pip. Therefore there is little speech of Pip himself. However, the lines he does say tend to tell us something important. In chapter one, Pip's speech suggests he is frightened, "Pray don't do it, sir." He only stutters a few words in each of his passages which adds to the sense of panic, "Pip, sir", "There, sir!" Similarly, in chapter two when Mrs Joe Gargery is shouting at Pip, he has a lack of speech and always speaks as if he is on the defensive, "You did.", "I don't know." However, later in the same chapter, Pip shows elements of confidence and uses longer lengths of speech, "I wonder who's put into prison-ships, and why they're put there?" ...read more.


And the marshes as "dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it." His overwhelming description is key to the realism of his settings, and - especially with the marshes - we can begin to match them with different emotions because of what they symbolise. The marshes and the churchyard symbolises evil and hatred by using phrases such as "devil", "cut my throat", "terror", "red" and "anger" And, as expected, Mrs Joe Gargery's home uses description and events which suggest security and homeliness, "bread-and-butter", "companionship", "manners." The description of Satis House almost makes it seem like a prison ship, "cold wind", "ship at sea", "rustily barred" which emphasises the loneliness and colour-drained atmosphere. In conclusion, I think that character and setting are the two most vital factors used by Charles Dickens in order to project the story of Great Expectations onto paper. His in-depth descriptions help us visualize his settings whilst his speech and contrast help to create both the character's physical appearance and personality. His establishment of relationship development and personality progression make us feel for the characters and begin to wonder what life was really like for the English population during the industrial revolution. ...read more.

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