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Great Expectations

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Introduction

What Picture Of Childhood Does Charles Dickens Create In The First Section of Great Expectations? In 1861, when Dickens embarked upon telling the novel Great Expectations, the country was riveted. They'd hasten to read the next weekly instalment which was full of drama and, more importantly, the issues which Dickens urged to convey throughout the novel. Strong feelings were rooted to his childhood where he was forced to work in a blacking factory and even give up his education at one point. When he did receive an education it was poorly taught, like Pip's own experience. In comparison, our society today and its compulsory education is a striking contrast to Victorian children's life. Treatment during childhood is also an important theme and most interestingly how Pip is treated by his sister Mrs Joe and her husband Joe Gargery. Whereas Joe supports and encourages Pip, "Astonishing! You ARE a scholar," he remarks when Pip writes something on the chalkboard to him, Mrs Joe treats Pip extremely differently. Despite being only a sister to Pip, Mrs Joe acts as his mother as she has raised him "by hand". Literally this describes how she raised him alone, but also symbolises how Pip seemed to be raised by Mrs Joe's violence. ...read more.

Middle

It could be that his fear is from being treated badly by those of higher status; however, Herbert treats him as an equal by playing and even returning Pip's good will by saying "same to you". This shows how he treats Pip more fairly unlike Estella. This gives us an insight that class is not an issue to all children. Another person similar to Pip's age is Biddy. She comes to look after Joe, Mrs Joe and Pip and at once Pip recognises her intelligence. However, we can see a slight snobbery in the way Pip looks at her. He does not understand how she can "learn quicker" than Pip. From this we can see he acknowledges Biddy's intelligence, but is also confused why he is not superior in that aspect which is rather snobbish. Although Pip and Biddy do not see each other in the same way (Pip "did not know back then" that Biddy loved Pip), Pip trusts Biddy immensely and tells her that he wants "to be a gentleman" on Estella's account. He has told no one else this, but still looks down on Biddy and thinks she is "envious and grudging" of his new wealth. ...read more.

Conclusion

Riveted by the personal effect it has on us, as if he's telling his story specifically to you, the reader, we maintain our interest in his thoughts and feelings throughout the novel. The novel is very rich emotionally, its long sentences building them up whilst the short ones tend to dissipate them. However, technical devices are not the only ways to entertain; humour plays a large part in engaging the reader by continuing their interest and creating contrasts to the intense atmosphere that is described. Although, most importantly and perhaps most simply is the power of the narrative hook. This cliff-hanger, or cleverly planned tease, leaves the reader craving for the next instalment of Pip's life, his views and the wonderful places he travels in his progression through childhood. In conclusion, the presentation of Pip's fictional life through his own hindsight in its telling still attracts the appeal of many different readers. Since everyone has experience childhood, its subject has a profound relationship to many different readers and so they can engage and relate with Pip with ease, interest and sympathy. The views and opinions presented by people of different ages and classes still have relevance today and they will remain vital to Great Expectations even if they only serve as a historical study for many readers to come. ...read more.

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