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How do the writers gain interest in the opening pages of 'Great Expectations' and 'The Color Purple'?

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Introduction

How do the writers gain interest in the opening pages of 'Great Expectations' and 'The Color Purple'? "My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening." Such captivating and expressive descriptions are continuously used throughout one of the most well-known and loved classics of the 19th century and it was none other than Charles Dickens who was attributed for such a powerful and pensive story - Great Expectations. Published in 1861, Great Expectations was 14th in a long line of remarkable books written by Dickens. However, the book's popularity is often ascribed to its autobiographic qualities; many of the events from Dickens' early life are mirrored in Great Expectations. Written in Victorian England, Great Expectations was set during the Industrial Revolution; a time when England saw the biggest social changes yet. London, the country's capital, was the destination for all those seeking economic opportunity. It was crowded, polluted and filthy - industry had taken over. The rigid divisions between social classes remained as huge as ever; upper class citizens were of the elite few - the rest of the population were industrious labourers. Great Expectations include many aspects of the Industrial Revolution and through the book's narrator and protagonist, Pip, we are able to identify these conditions, thus creating more understanding for the reader about the novel's social context. The opening chapter is set in the countryside (in Southeast England - the region in which Dickens grew up.) The scene is set in the most accurate and intricate detail. The vivid descriptions used allow the reader to achieve a specific, pictorial image and because the language used is so complex, we can already deduce that this scene was of great significant to the narrator, Pip, due to the fact that years later (when he is telling the story), he can still remember the finest of details. ...read more.

Middle

The book features a fourteen-year-old female teenager called Celie. Celie's family life was substantially different from the average, modern, nuclear family, therefore certain behaviour that would be considered atrocious today was acceptable because it was tradition. The book consists of 90 personal letters written by Celie. The majority of the letters are all addressed to God - we can already deduce that this girl is most likely an introvert. She results to privately talking to God because she's shut off from the rest of society. The fact that she turns to God, shows us that she doesn't have anybody else to turn to. "You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy." The opening sentence of The Colour Purple is very significant in setting the scene and putting the situation into context. The quote was one said by her step-father; the reader can understand the significance of this quote simply because Celie remembered it and more importantly wrote it down. She recognises the fact that she can't talk to anybody and this is one of the main reasons why she results in writing to God. Celie will often be considered dysfunctional, reclusive and na�ve, however the character of Celie is a lot more complex beneath the surface. By reading the first letter that she writes, we can tell she is only semi-literate because the writing is ungrammatical, simplistic and written phonetically: "...never git used to it. And now I feels sick..." The effect that the spelling and grammatical mistakes have is that the reader can attain a sense of Celie's character; the phonetically written words can enable us to imagine how she spoke. We can also achieve a strong sense of Celie's innocence in the first letter alone. She has but a limited understanding of her surroundings because she is so secluded from the rest of the world. She, presumably, has grown up in this family without questioning her step-father's actions and taking that the way he acted was the norm. ...read more.

Conclusion

It gives the reader the chance to understand what it would be like to be as secluded and shut-off as Celie was. It allows us to see the thinking of a young girl in such situations, making her naivety almost understandable. Great Expectations and The Color Purple may differ significantly as far as content is considered; however they both rely on the same principles to achieve the success that they both have had. Set in different parts of the world and at different times, there is no similarity between the social, historical nor cultural contexts of the stories. The section that I analysed in Great Expectations was one continuous event lasting a few minutes or so and the section that I analysed in The Color Purple was never defined, however it must have been over several years. Both books heavily rely on their protagonists to gain the interest of their readers and not surprisingly, both books are told in first person. The advantage of this is that this enables an author to convey ideas, thoughts and feelings through a certain character; they can also put a specific stance on things, changing the readers' perspective of the story. Both protagonists are portrayed very naively and innocently. In Great Expectations this created humour, in The Color Purple, this created understanding. The authors set the scenes in very different ways; Dickens uses a lot of intricate, descriptive detail to set scenes and this can create graphic imagery for the readers giving them a better insight as to what life looked like in the 1800s. Alice Walker uses Celie's diary to put the story into context and through this diary, Walker uses spelling and grammatical errors to show that not everybody was educated in the 1800s. Both Great Expectations and The Colour Purple's opening sections, undoubtedly introduce the stories captivatingly enough to maintain the readers' interest throughout the rest of the book, both using a variety of mechanisms to do so. ...read more.

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