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How do Dickens and Sylvia Plath create sympathy for their characters in 'Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit' and 'Great Expectations'?

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Introduction

How do Dickens and Sylvia Plath create sympathy for their characters in 'Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit' and 'Great Expectations'? Both Dickens and Plath use a variety of writing techniques to create sympathy for the two main characters - Pip and the narrator. Although the writing styles and settings are very different, first person narrative from a child's point of view are used to effect in both stories to develop characters with which readers can identify. This narrative perspective conveys emotions effectively from the opening paragraphs of both stories. Dickens's Pip is first pictured sitting on a gravestone in an isolated churchyard, his loneliness and fear emphasized by his murky surroundings of death. His depiction of himself as a 'small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all' conveys his youth and innocence to the reader, immediately suggesting very early on in the novel just how unloved and isolated within his own vivid imagination Pip actually is. Plath uses the young narrator's thoughts and dreams to create empathy in a very different way, creating a bright and happy atmosphere through simple, childish pleasures in the bright lights of an airport, and exciting 'technicolour dreams.' The security and happiness she takes so for granted is emphasized by Plath's portrayal of her almost religiously significant dreams of flying - describing them as the girl's 'Jerusalem' to convey her wide-eyed purity. Also, the depiction of her uncle as 'Superman' - a character who personifies safety and reliability - helps to highlight just how secure the narrator is, within her family and within her imagination and dreams. ...read more.

Middle

Superman is the narrator's dream of flight personified, with the comforting loud presence of the uncle she loves so dearly and is used to symbolise her contentment. Plath uses light and colour imagery to map the character development of the girl in the way in which children break events into simple forms such as good or evil, dark or light. In the beginning she talks about the 'shooting stars' of the beloved airport, which, always a sign that dreams will come true, convey the extent of her longing to fly. The lights that 'blazed and blinked' in her life symbolise everything that makes her happy, which causes her fear and isolation to seem much more pitiful when even the 'bright squares of light' of her home wink out and leave her with nothing but the 'black shadow' of war to haunt her shattered dreams. In the same way, Plath's imagery of the 'clear and definite' colours of the beginning, the 'technicolour dreams' -which signify both the narrator's view of life and her childhood itself - fade and dull as war creeps up on the world. When the story draws to a close the narrator's perfect innocence and trust is 'wiped away like the crude drawings of a child in coloured chalk.' As colour symbolises her childhood, the loss of it signifies its end, and the dreams that once brought happiness are now recalled with a bitter disdain that the reader cannot but find pathetically sad. Dickens, too, maps his plot with use of imagery- although much more subtly. From the opening paragraph, the imagery used to highlight Pip's fear serves as a foretelling of his future, with signs of death, pain and imprisonment surrounding the frightened character. ...read more.

Conclusion

This imagination also evokes similar feelings of being an outcast as those felt by Plath's narrator, especially within his family situation. Mrs Joe epitomizes Pip's view of parental control and responsibility, her failings ruthlessly depicted by her younger brother. Shhe is all he has to depend and rely on, his role model and guardian, and that she makes such a poor mother figure stirs empathy for the little boy treated so harshly. Pip has always been aware of the flaws in his family, by only at the end of the second chapter does he truly become aware of the flaws in himself, claiming his is 'afraid to think' of what he might have done under the influence of his fear. Pip later learns that a persons place in life is not always determined by their character and morals, but upon a rigid nobility ladder that condones ignorance and sin by will not tolerate poor parentage or less than aristocratic blood. The incident with the convict is the first step in teaching Pip of the harsh reality of the world, provoking more sympathy at his confusion as why even with the best intentions, he cannot always follow the path of good. To conclude, both Dickens and Plath use similar techniques to create sympathy for their characters, manipulating the wide-eyed innocence of youth to covey the ways in which society alters humans and their morals just as much as humans alter society itself. Adults always assume that they understand the world better than their children, but when children first realise that everything is never as it ought to be, they fully understand the injustice of humanity best of all. ...read more.

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