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How does Charles Dickens create his characters? Analyse his main methods focusing closely on the presentation of Gradgrind and Magwitch in the opening sections of "Hard Times" and "Great Expectations".

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Introduction

How does Charles Dickens create his characters? Analyse his main methods focusing closely on the presentation of Gradgrind and Magwitch in the opening sections of "Hard Times" and Great Expectations" Charles Dickens creates striking and memorable personalities by using story setting and vivid descriptions of the characters through their speech, appearance, manner and their actions. All these are used effectively by Dickens as he presents the characters of Gradgrind in the novel 'Hard Times and Magwitch in 'Great Expectations. The tale of "Hard Times" is set in an Industrial Town named "Coketown" during the 1850's. Mr Gradgrind is the story's main character. He is a self-made businessman and an apparent philanthropist, as he is the sole benefactor of a local school, in which he wants teaching to be based of facts and not sentiment. Although his reputation presents him as a kind man, Dickens description of Gradgrind's persona is influential in making the reader feel negatively towards this character. The story of "Great Expectations" focuses on an orphan named Pip who goes to live with his sister and brother in law in Marsh Country. In the opening sections of Great Expectations, the character Magwitch is an escaped convict, Pip encounters him when visiting his mother's grave. In Magwitch's case Dickens effectively manipulates the reader to feel positive towards this character. ...read more.

Middle

However we sense from the final two paragraphs of the encounter, that Pip is also curious and sympathetic towards the Magwitch. The description of the convict as a "shuddering body" and "clasping himself" evokes a feeling of pity towards this character as he pathetically picks his way among the graves. Dickens' description of Magwitch, readying himself to spend the night in the cemetery and the fact that Pip's fear is overpowered by a sense of pity which makes him peer back sympathetically at Magwitch stirs up a feeling of compassion in the reader towards the convict. Typical of Dickens the persona of his characters is revealed through their speech. Gradgrind's use of imperatives makes him overbearing and forceful as a character. His rude, blunt way of addressing pupils suggests that Mr. Gradgind is uncompromising and rigid. His jarringly short sentences illustrate his own mechanical, unemotional character. Likewise Magwitch's character is revealed through his speech. Magwitch is made to seem intimidating and aggressive and this is highlighted by his use of insults, like "I'll cut your throat" "you little devil" or "you young dog". The character is made to appear more violent by his use of the imperatives, "hold", "tell" and "show" all serve to make Magwitch appear powerful as he orders Pip to obey him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Yet Dickens' provides us with an opportunity to glimpse an other side to Magwitch's character when Magwitch makes the outrageous claim that he would cut out Pip's heart and liver and then roast and eat them. We sense that Magwitch wouldn't really hurt Pip and that he is only exploiting Pip's childish fears. Dickens uses wit, irony and spoof combined with powerful images to make these characters come to life. Both characters are frightening in their own way and are both stereotypical of their time. However, I feel that in the long term it would be Gradgrind that ultimately did more harm, causing lasting damage to the children in his school as he took away their childhood. Dickens finds this more alarming and displays this to the reader through his blunt dislike show towards Gradgrind. Perhaps Dickens is more alarmed by Gradgrind "Slaughtering the Innocent" as he himself was forced into a workhouse at a young age in order to support his family. Personally, I found Magwitch a more likeable character because it is clear that Dickens is fonder of Magwitch than Gradgrind so he has used there description, way of speaking and behaviour towards children to influence our views. It is a perfect example of Dickens' skill as a writer, how he has clearly drawn us towards a violent convict over an apparent philanthropist and an esteemed "Gentleman". ...read more.

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