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How does Dickens capture the reader's interest in the first eight chapters of "Great Expectations"?

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Introduction

How does Dickens capture the reader's interest in the first eight chapters of "Great Expectations"? Charles Dickens had a great talent for engaging the reader in his fascinating novels. 'Great Expectations' was one of the last that Dickens wrote and it is one of the most famous in English literature ever. Dickens was the son of John and Elizabeth Dickens and was the second of seven children. John Dickens was a clerk at the navy pay office but he struggled to provide for his growing family. John Dickens was in severe debt and the family had to sell of personal items but this was not enough for his creditors and he was arrested and sent to Marshalsea Prison. For Charles being such a young child it would be very distressing. As his father was in prison this meant that Charles at the age of twelve found work at Warren's Blacking factory where he was paid six shillings a week for wrapping shoe black bottles. Charles had to do this to help provide for his family. This had a great influence on the novel as there are autobiographical elements in the book. At twelve years old this is a lot to go through and he didn't have a very good childhood just the same as Pip in the novel. 'Great Expectations' has a lot of autobiographical elements in it no just about Pip but other elements as well. For example Dickens lived Chatham in Kent and in Great Expectations this is where Pip is living and both Dickens and Pip had very unhappy childhoods with tragic family histories. The same as Pip, Dickens also moved to London and found work there and people said that Dickens himself after living in London for a few years was a very snobbish man just the same as Pip is towards the end of the book until he realises that Joe was already a gentle Christian man. ...read more.

Middle

Another and a very evident clue Dickens puts in is when Pip asks his sister why people are put on prison-ships and she shrieks "People are put in the hulks because they murder, and because they rob, and forge, and do all sorts of bad; and they always begin by asking questions." Pip's sister says this just to stop Pip asking questions and go to bed. Pip hears what she has said differently and looks at it in his perspective which is, that he has been asking questions and he is about to steal food so Pip thinks that he will become a convict for his awful ways. The connections don't end here, there is a bond between Satis house and how Pip describes it. Pip describes Satis house "Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. There was a court-yard in front, and that was barred;" repetition of the word "barred" is linked to a prison cell and how the convicts are barred up. This bond is strengthened when Pip "went into the house by a side door- the great front entrance had two chains across it outside." Again this is another clue that Satis house is connected with the hulks and convicts because Magwitch had chains around his legs just like there are chains across the front entrance. Dickens deliberately put these clues in because all these continuous links engage the reader's interest and it makes the reader curious about what all these clues will come to. Dickens does use a bit of humour to give the reader some comic relief. An incident which is quite comical is when Pip talks about Mrs Joe taking Joe "by the two whiskers," and then she "knocked his head for a little while against the wall behind him: while I sat in the corner guiltily on." ...read more.

Conclusion

Wilkie Collins was another great Victorian novelist. He was once asked how he engages the reader's interest and he answered "Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait." Dickens does this exactly in 'Great Expectations' in the first 8 chapters. In the first chapter Dickens makes you cry because you find out that Pip has lost his parents and his five little brothers, you then see Pip being threatened by the convict and he has a future which looks so bleak. After this in chapter 2 Dickens makes you laugh as he puts in some light humour of which I have touched on earlier, where Joe's head is banged on the wall and he is held by his whiskers. Then last of all the you are made to wait. Dickens does this by introducing the convict very early on in the book and he is only there for a couple of chapters, he is then taken out of the book and he is to return later. The reader will want to know when the convict will return and why he will return. There are more questions that the reader will want to ask e.g. who is the other convict and what role does he play in the book? And what does Pip's future hold for him? Will Estella take a fancy of Pip? There are countless questions that the reader will want to know but the only way the reader can find out is by reading on. From chapter one to eight what really grabs my attention is how much sympathy the reader automatically gives Pip. Through the first chapter when we learn that he has lost his family and how he is threatened by the convict and how he is treated by his horrible sister. Along with how Estella bully's Pip, saying that he has "coarse hands" and she denounced Pip "for a stupid, clumsy labouring boy." For a boy of Pip's age to go through this, it must be agony and that is why we express sympathy for Pip. ?? ?? ?? ?? David Drayton 14.10.07 ...read more.

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