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How Dickens converys setting, character and atmosphere in Great Expectations

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Introduction

Explain how Dickens conveys setting, character and atmosphere in the opening chapter of 'Great Expectations' In the opening chapter of 'Great Expectations' Dickens draws upon a wealth of literary devices which range from the carefully selected word to a rather grand style of writing in long, complex sentences. He focuses these literary devices on conveying setting, character and atmosphere which enable the reader to have a entertaining, fictional experience. Immediately, in the first line the reader realises who the main character is and begins to build a picture of him. The reader is conscious of an older narrator looking back on his childhood when the following line announces: "I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip." As the first chapter is all about "Pip" it is appropriate that readers should be able to envisage the main character who will transport them to a Victorian childhood. In the second paragraph the reader deduces that Pip is very imaginative as from the "shape of the letters" on his father's gravestones he has formed an image of a "square, stout, dark man with curly black hair." It's important that the reader understands at this early stage that Pip's imagination has such a hold over him as later on in the chapter. ...read more.

Middle

hints at the convict's concern not to be discovered. He is a "fearful man" and a long descriptions of the convict follows in which Dickens uses a string of adverbial phrases to emphasise the dreaded physical condition of the convict who had been "...soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles ..." In this way, a picture of sustained suffering is created that arouses the sympathy of the reader. Pip is under the sole control of the convict and has no room to negotiate with a man who is "so sudden and strong". He has to do what the convict says for fear of the verbal threats becoming true and these are forced more on him by the convict's unkind physical treatment including turning Pip "upside down". This re-enforces the frightening atmosphere to the reader as reading between the lines they see Pip has no way of escaping. When Pip speaks he does so in Standard English e.g. "My sister ... wife of Joe Gargery, the blacksmith." In contrast the convict uses slang "pint" and "mind to't" and sometimes then he doesn't pronounce words right - he says "wittles" instead of "victuals". Dickens endears Pip in the way to a middle-class audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sub-clauses in long sentences such as "soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones." are dramatised by the use of commas before the word and. You would not think, especially not in today's modern world, that there should be a comma before the word and however Dicken's deliberately chose to do this. As by having the commas the reader has to slow down when reading the long sentences which gives them chance to digest what they have just read and it sinks into their head more. But in addition it also holds the reader in suspense, only for a couple of seconds, but in that time they build up an urge to read on. In conclusion, the opening chapter sets up the book as an incredibly worthwhile read which seems to semi-autobiographical and concerned with making a commentary on life, childhood and the class system of Victorian England. In order to express his views through a best-selling novel he combined a range of elements including romance, mystery, crime, comedy and sentiment. It's paramount for the reader to deduce and infer these from the description of the setting, characters and atmosphere allowing them to get the most out of this magnificent book. The opening chapter is a curtain-raiser for the rest of the novel in which Dickens takes the reader back in time to experience a Victorian childhood. ?? ?? ?? ?? English Coursework Dickens Essay ...read more.

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