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How does Charles Dickens create his characters?

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Introduction

How does Charles Dickens create his characters? (Pre 1914 Prose) Charles Dickens is a great writer who has been successful throughout his life. He has written many novels for all age groups which consist of 'Great Expectations' (1860-61) and 'Hard Times'. Dickens techniques of writing were much noticed by readers, especially his ways of creating characters. There are a number of ways to how dickens would create his characters, he places them in revealing or appropriate settings and describes their physical appearance. He also, allows them to speak so that we hear their vocabulary and tone of voice. His characters actions and movements are well described because he shows how other characters react to them. To understand dickens techniques more clearly, I will be investigating two characters, Abel Magwitch of 'Great Expectations' and Thomas Gradgrind of 'Hard Times'. 'Great Expectations' is about a young orphan named Philip Pirrip, known as Pip. The novel has been set in the Kent Marshes. Pip lives with his shrewish sister and her husband, the simply, kindly, blacksmith Joe Gargery. Chapter one of this novel opens in the country churchyard where Pip is terrified by the appearance of Magwitch, an escaped prison convict who threatens him with awful vengeance unless some food and file for his fetters are obtained smartly. Pip manages to hide some of his own supper, steals more food from the pantry, and after an encounter with a different younger convict, he finds the original one and leaves him filing off his irons. ...read more.

Middle

However, the reader may also feel pity for Magwitch from the way he limps and shivers. This explains how Dickens was able to create two sides of the character Magwitch, this way the reader is able to feel some sympathy but, they are also afraid of him because he is a criminal and he is relying on the help of a child. Magwitch tries to be evil, but between that he shows his vulnerable side. Dickens uses adjectives such as 'ravenously'. The purpose of this is to give the reader an image of a wild animal in their minds. Dickens is comparing Magwitch with a wild animal to once again remind the reader that Magwitch is uneducated and deprived. Magwitch used his gaze to overpower Pip. This suggests that Dickens was able to write in a way to show who's in power. Also, Magwitch tilts Pip over a grave to frighten him and show power. However, we can understand from the novel that Magwitch is also afraid of the graves as he creeps over them. Dickens has created the character Pip as a polite and well-mannered young orphan. This makes the reader feel even more afraid of Magwitch since he threatens an innocent child. We can understand Pip is an educated boy because his English is correct and clear, "yes sir". Dickens repeatedly uses the word 'sir' which implies that Pip as a child is well-bred and has a good background because he respects his elders, even a criminal. Later, in the novel we realise that dramatic irony has been used as readers discover that Magwitch is not the villain of this novel. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens has created Gradgrind's character to be rude and obstinate. Gradgrind points rudely, and he is always surveying the room. Gradgrind refers to students as 'reasoning animals', 'little vessels' and 'pitchers'. This kind of behaviour compels the reader to grow their hatred towards Gradgrind's character. Gradgrind's behaviour towards one of the students, 'Sissy Jupe' is very rude. The reader is quite upset as they sympathize with Sissy Jupe's reaction. She is just an innocent young girl, and Gradgrind murders this innocence. Gradgrind's idea of a model student is Bitzer. The readers feeling about Bitzer would be that he had no sympathy for Sissy. Bitzer may be from a wealthier family than Sissy, therefore, he was able to define a horse. This implies that Gradgrind is stereotypical about the students. Dickens has created Gradgrind's character in a way to make him sound like the 'boss', he sounds like an important person who is necessary in the students lives. Many students are not responding to Gradgrind, they are afraid or bored. Also, the staff of the school step back in fright when Gradgrind speaks. However, this does not show any respect, only fear. In conclusion, many techniques have been used to create characters, setting, appearance, actions and others reactions that reveal a great deal about Dickens characters in the status he wanted. It was necessary for Dickens to create both Magwitch and Gradgrind; however, both were not similar characters. Magwitch was not the villain of 'Great Expectations', but Gradgrind did fall to the readers esteem. Afroja Meah, 11L2, English Coursework 6, Mrs Miles ...read more.

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