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How does Charles Dickens create an atmosphere of fear in the opening chapter of 'Great Expectations'?

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Introduction

Kelly Nicholas How does Charles Dickens create an atmosphere of fear in the opening chapter of 'Great Expectations'? The structure of the first chapter in great expectations is particularly important; for example Dickens uses hyphens to show pauses. It is very dense and has many long descriptions; whilst also making use of many commas in sentences as well as colons and semi-colons. Using longer sentences when he is describing things helps provide a reader with a vivid image of the scene in which the story is set. For example the graveyard where Pip meets Magwitch the escaped convict. This encourages a reader to imagine what it would be like to be in Pips position; the atmosphere of the graveyard makes a reader feel uneasy and jumpy. Although this helps to set the scene, it also makes it very difficult to read and perhaps he has been too descriptive in some parts, causing a reader to become uninterested and at times confused. However in the period in which Dickens wrote the novel it was not uncommon to have long complicated sentences. But at times he also uses shorter sentences when he wants to create attention such as 'I pleaded in terror' creating an atmosphere of fear. The language that Dickens uses for Pip and the convict can be seen as a reflection of their personality. ...read more.

Middle

Firstly, there are numerous authorial techniques Dickens has used to create a sense of fear within the first chapter such as Figurative Language. In lines 119 and 120, Dickens uses a simile, to describe the convict's legs as being 'numbed and stiff'. This simile implies that the man is old and weak and makes him appear to be fearless. Another authorial technique Dickens has used is alliteration. He has used it in line 27 'low leaden line' to describe the river. This emphasizes the flowing phoneme sound 'l', which encourages the reader to read slower. It also gives the idea that the river is moving slowly and quietly which creates an atmosphere of stillness. He uses alliteration again in line 50 on the't' sound in 'tombstone trembling'. When the't' is spoken it creates the effect of being shaky which is implies Pip to be trembling. Dickens creates an imagery effect within lines 33 to 36, by giving the old man a very detailed description of his appearance which is almost like a poem or song because it has a steady even rhythm. He is described as not wearing a hat, which in the Victorian era was very unusual as most men wore top hats. He is wearing an old rag around his head and covered in mud, suggesting he is poor and possibly homeless, this enables the reader to create a very real idea of the convict's appearance. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens has also used symbolism within this chapter. He has shown Pip making up images and ideas of how his parents and brothers looked simply from their tombstones. He takes the shape of the letters on his fathers which gave him the idea he was a 'square, stout, dark man' and that from the inscription on his mothers saying 'Also Georgina Wife of the above' gave him the impression she was freckled and sickly. In the description of the convict where Dickens states he had been 'soaked in water' and 'covered in mud' suggests that he has been living outside for a long time or struggled to get away from somewhere quickly and ended up falling into a puddle. He also says he has been stung by nettles and cut by flints which tell the reader he has been walking through a wood or somewhere and perhaps is not wearing many clothes because he cannot afford it or can not be seen. If this story is not read in depth, it comes across as being quite boring and hard to grasp but once it is explained and understood, it becomes a lot more interesting. Pips character contrasts sharply with characters in other books such as Oliver twist. The main character in these novels is more simply portrayed and the characters around them are of far greater interest. Pip however, begins as a likeable but simple character. ...read more.

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