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Great Expectations was written during Queen Victoria's reign. Its author, Charles Dickens, penned the novel around 1860.

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Introduction

Great Expectations was written during Queen Victoria's reign. Its author, Charles Dickens, penned the novel around 1860, however it was not immediately published in book format but rather it appeared as weekly episodes in a daily newspaper. From research, we know that Dickens observed a lot of poverty and misery when he moved to London at the age of two. His father was put into a debtor's prison followed by his wife and five children later on. His experiences can clearly be seen in the themes within Great Expectations. When he died Dickens was buried in Westminster Abbey to be remembered as a superb novelist. The opening to Great Expectations is a fascinating piece of descriptive writing. It catches the reader's attention and puts the plot in motion with dramatic action. The story commences in a graveyard where a young orphan, named Pip, stands alongside his parent's gravestones, staring in deep bewilderment. As the boy makes his way home, we are told that an escaped convict suddenly grabs him. This startles the innocent child tremendously. The fearful man, Abel Magwitch, threatens Pip and promises in a disturbing manner: "You get me a file, and you get me wittles. You bring them 'em both to me, or I'll have you heart and liver out." The young boy scared and shivering agrees to the task and runs home without stopping. ...read more.

Middle

. No hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied around his head. A man . . . soaked in water . . . smothered in mud, lamed by stones, cut by flints and stung by nettles . . . torn by briars." All adjectives used to describe the escapee are negative, sharp and nasty seen through the eyes of the young boy Pip. Equally, Dickens' word choices to describe Magwitch's capture of Pip are frightening: "A man . . . who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me (Pip) by the chin" What is interesting her is Dickens' repeated use of the conjunctive "and". This formulates a longer, more evil image of the man through Pip's eyes. Almost comical and exaggerated. This opening chapter gives insight into the criminal justice system of 1860, possibly because Dickens grew up with an unpleasant view of jail life when his family was arrested for debt? Criminals were often transported to Australia and were kept in hulks off the coast. The hulks were old and disused warships; most criminals were kept on the ships for months often years before people decided to send them to work hard labour on land in Australia. The warships were renowned for their shoddy conditions and as a result one in three convicts died. ...read more.

Conclusion

Writers such as Dickens, during the reign of Queen Victoria, showed that putting up with misery was a sign of good character. The setting is characteristic of the Victorian era. It is dark, mysterious and melodramatic; to show horror and fear. Horror is used at the end of the chapter when Pip imagines: "A silhouetted gibbet, chains hanging to it, which had once held a pirate." The rest of the novel is full of twists and turns. Pip changes from a young, na�ve boy into a cold selfish man corrupted by great expectations, because of the amount of money given to him. Dickens shows how wealth can bring out the least attractive behaviour in people. Pip, however, learns from his mistakes and changes back in to the gentleman he once was. The story is told in first person by Pip. We can identify and understand him more than any other character because of this. We share his feelings and emotions throughout the book. We are on his journey with him and experience his character undergoing several major changes throughout the story. Dickens wrote the novel to make a reader think. It allowed him to use his childhood memories of the effects of growing up and also the effects of society on a maturing mind. Above all I think he penned this novel with realism. Victorian Britain was not a pretty place for most people. As a result, Dickens' graphic opening chapter in Great Expectations is said to be one of the greatest in English Literature. ...read more.

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