Great Expectations Effectiveness of chapter 1
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How effective are the opening and closing chapters of 'Great Expectations.' Opening Chapter The novel, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was written between December 1860 and August 1861, and was published in instalments in a magazine. Charles Dickens was known as a 'social reformer' and many of his novels reflect on poverty, justice and punishment in novels such as Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and Great Expectations. Charles Dickens was also concerned about prison systems and he campaigned long and hard against public executions, using his fame to bring the horrors of the situation to light. The first chapter of Great Expectations establishes important information in terms of character, action, and the plot which aims to entice the reader to read on. Charles Dickens used a lot of suspense in the novel; in addition he made each of the instalments end with a cliff-hanger to persuade readers to buy the next issue, which would definitely gives the reader a purpose for buying the following part of Great Expectations. Great Expectations can be also considered semi-autobiographical of Charles Dickens as it is based on his own experience of life and people. The novel is written in the style of a bildungsroman.* The first chapter of Great Expectations introduces us to the young protagonist Philip Pirrip, who was known as Pip because he could not pronounce his full name 'I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.'
He has "no hat," "Broken shoes" and "an old rag tied round his head." He looked like he had been "soaked in water, and smothered in mud" his walk was described as a limp, like he had been "lamed by stones and, cut by flint." He must have been cold as he was "shivering." The description of Magwitch makes the reader have some sympathy for him due to his hard life. "Hold your noise!" Magwitch's opening line, which already suggests he is from a lower social class, due to the informal vocabulary and that he is aggressive as emphasised by the use of the exclamation mark. As he threatens Pip, an innocent child, our very first impression of Magwitch is that he is a dangerous person, a convict who has no limitation to his threats, "Keep still you little devil, or I'll cut your throat!" "You young dog, what fat checks you ha' got. Darn me if I couldn't eat 'em, and if I han't half a mind to 't!" Dickens use this technique of depicting speech phonetically (as it would be said) to give a comic edge to Magwitch's words. The relationship between Pip and the convict appears to be based on power and fear. Magwitch yells at Pip only to get what he wants, a file and some wittles (food).
The convict's identity is unknown and the use of a cliff-hanger makes the reader think about what will happen in the next chapter as the opening chapter does not give this away. The character description is very detailed and the reader is kept personally interested in the characters. The novel appeals to Victorian readers, as well as modern readers who also learn about what happened during Victorian times and what the criminal systems was like then- how prisoners were punished. There is archaic language which is not used now. Such as, "gibbets" or "Lord, strike you dead." The opening chapter contains a balanced sense of the frightening atmosphere. As Magwitch threatens to kill Pip, by lying about the 'young man,' he over exaggerates. For the reader, it seems humorous and, therefore it lightens up the tension and relieves the reader. I feel that it is an effective opening for the novel and it would persuade me to read on because it contains an exciting use of the cliff-hanger - we do not know whether Pip will bring the needs of the convict or not, or whether the young man will hunt for young Pip and kill him. Dickens also uses very descriptive language to capture the scene and the feelings of the characters which makes the reader feel personally involved in the events of the novel. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1
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