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"Great Expectations" is considered Dickens' finest novel. To what extent does it deserve this reputation?

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Introduction

"Great Expectations" is considered Dickens' finest novel. To what extent does it deserve this reputation? "Great expectations" was written by Charles Dickens in 1860. It is centred on Pip, an orphan living with his austere sister and her mild-mannered husband Joe Gargery the blacksmith. It follows his journey from being a simple boy with few expectations, to his moving to London and becoming a 'gentleman', at the expense of a mysterious benefactor. I am going to write an appreciation of it, analysing its main components: The story, the structure, the characters, the narration, the setting, the language and literary devices, the themes and the social/historical context, and evaluating their success to answer the question. "Great Expectations" combines many different genres, including romance, mystery, history, action and comedy. This means it has universal appeal, and people with a wide range of interests and preferences will find something to like about it. It also means that any individual reading it can respond it on a number of different levels. Great Expectations does not have one single 'bad guy' - many people fill this role. Magwitch, as the convict would have been the antagonist in a traditional story of good and evil, however Dickens does not portray him as such, and even when we see him terrorising young Pip, it is portrayed in a humorous light, and we do not hate him. Pip is the hero of the story; however, at times he is the 'bad' character. Mrs Joe is a character that could have been portrayed as an evil hag. However she is described with restraint as 'not a good-looking woman', and because Dickens does not go into much detail in the descriptions of her role as Pip's childhood tormentor make her far more realistic. In a way, when she is attacked, we feel a sense of poetic justice because she made Pip's life a misery. ...read more.

Middle

It also shows that Pip now values human ideals such as kindness and compassion over social status. Pip's new ideology is affirmed when he writes letters to important people to try to save Magwitch from being executed because he is risking his standing in society, by associating himself with a convict. This redeems him in the reader's eyes. Another pivotal character in the story is Joe. Unlike Pip, his essential character does not change and he stays the model of kindness and humility throughout. Dickens uses his physical appearance to reflect this. "Joe was a fair man with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed with their whites" (p7) The word 'fair' is used for its several layers of meaning. Literally, its primary meaning is that Joe is of a light complexion. However, this is a play on words, as fair also means, just and open-minded, which definitely describes Joe. It also means adequate or average, which shows that Joe is a man with few expectations, and is content with his simple life. However, the word also has connotative meaning through its association with light, and implies that Joe must be 'good'. His blonde hair and extraordinary blue eyes are not unlike the traditional characteristics of angels. By associating him with these pure innocent higher beings through his appearance, Dickens is showing the reader that Joe stands apart from the other more devious characters in the story, because he has purely good motives. It is older Pip describing Joe. This foreshadows that Joe will look after Pip in the future and act like somewhat of a 'guardian angel'. Joe's behaves admirably throughout the story and is always dignified in response to Pip's rejection. "I'm wrong in these clothes. I'm wrong out of the forge...you wont find half so much fault in me if...you come and you put your head in at the forge window and see Joe, the blacksmith...And so god bless you dear old Pip, old chap, god bless you" (p185) ...read more.

Conclusion

Miss Havisham sets out to destroy the male sex, but in the end only ruins the lives of two females, her and Estella. The historical context is another reason why Great Expectations is a great novel. Britain had just undergone an industrial revolution, which had widened the gap between the rich and urban dwelling poor. A similar situation in France had led to a political revolution. The British authorities were mindful of this and thus imposed a harsh regime - executions and transportations were commonplace. Dickens felt that this was wrong, so one of the 'good' characters in the story was executed to highlight this and the law that transported convicts were not allowed to return is one of the obstacles in the story. Dickens own family situation is also shown in the novel, which makes it not only entertaining, but also informative and reliable. His father was a criminal and Dickens spent some of his childhood living in a debtor's prison. This gave him an unfavourable impression of the British justice system and this is shown in the novel when Pip first comes to London, and sees the gallows and the prison. Also, Jaggers is the main exponent of the law and he is cold and unforgiving. So in conclusion, Dickens combines complex characters, a wide range of underlying themes and many literary techniques with other things to create a successful novel. These wide ranges of techniques and devices help the play to engage the audience on many different levels, by stimulating them verbally, emotionally and intellectually. The novel also entertains and informs at the same time. Although, for analytical purposes, I have divided these things up, the reader responds to them as a whole and they all work together to make an impact. However, literature, by definition is an art. So although great Expectations is technically a good novel, due to the subjective nature of the literature, it is up the individual whether they enjoy it or not, and whether they prefer it to any of Dickens's other novels. ?? ?? ?? ?? Sohna Jawara 11JSSD - 1 - ...read more.

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