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Great Expectations - Chapter 8

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Introduction

In what ways can Chapter 8 of Dicken's 'Great Expectations' be considered the pivotal point of the novel? Chapter 8 can be seen as a pivotal chapter in "Great Expectations" because it is a chapter in which a lot of important changes happen and Pip has his eyes opened to what he might become. Until that point he has lived a simple life, being looked after by his sister and her husband who is a blacksmith. In Chapters 1-7 the grown-up Pip remembers the experiences of his life as a young boy in the marshes. Dickens uses the adult Pip to emphasise how simple the young Pip was. He uses language to make the memories funny, such as when Pip is talking about how he misunderstood the meaning of 'Wife of the Above' on his parents' gravestone or when he exaggerates the terror that he and Joe lived under with the violent tyrant Mrs Joe. He gives a great importance to the 'Tickler' and goes into great detail as to how both Joe and Pip are afraid of it. The use of the word 'Tickler' is an example of Dickens' use of irony, particularly in his choice of names. In this case the word 'tickle' is more or less the opposite of what it is really used for. Dickens also makes fun of Mrs Joe always talking about how she brought him up 'by hand'. ...read more.

Middle

At the end of the chapter Dickens uses the imagery of the body hanging from the gibbet to show the horror of Miss Havisham's character: 'I saw a figure hanging by the neck... the face was Miss Havisham's'. Another reason why this chapter is important, if not pivotal, is that Dickens introduces Miss Favisham who Pip thinks might be his unknown benefactor in a lot of the novel. She pays for his apprenticeship and then when some mysterious stranger is going to pay for him to become a gentleman he thinks: 'Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune on a grand scale'. The fact that she is described so negatively in this chapter gives clues that this might not be as straightforward as it looks. Estella and Miss Havisham are the first 'upper-class' people that Pip meets and, appearing in Chapter 8, they are very different from the characters in the first seven chapters. When Mrs Joe first mentions to Pip that he has been invited to Mrs Havisham's house she is described as 'an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house'. Their life is completely cut off from the world in which Pip has lived until then. From Chapter 7 we are told that she lives in 'seclusion'. In fact, as Miss Havisham herself says, she has not even seen the light of day since before Pip was born. ...read more.

Conclusion

Magwitch later tells Pip: 'You acted noble, my boy. ...Noble, Pip! And I never forgot it!'. This is developed later in the novel when Pip as a young man decides to help Magwitch to escape when he has been sentenced to death. It is not just a young boy but a man who can choose what he wants to do. The last chapter of the novel concentrates on Pip and Estella and makes you think that perhaps Dickens wants to think that their relationship is very important. There were two different endings to the novel. Originally Estella remarried and Pip went back to Egypt but Dickens was persuaded to give the novel a happy ending. In the 'second' ending the reader is left at the end wondering if maybe they do get together. Pip says, 'I saw the shadow of no parting from her'. By doing this he concentrates attention on their relationship. I think that Chapter 8 is a key chapter in the novel and is very important in keeping the story going. Since Dickens wrote 'Great Expectations' as a serial in a magazine he would have had to have several pivotal chapters to keep the pot boiling and the readers interested. Everything that appears in Chapter 8 turns out to be a false trail and the 'real' Pip is revealed in other chapters. I think therefore that this chapter is pivotal but there are others as well which might be just as important. ...read more.

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