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How does Dickens create an effective sense of time, place and atmosphere in the opening chapter of Great Expectations?

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Introduction

How does Dickens create an effective sense of time, place and atmosphere in the opening chapter of Great Expectations? Great Expectations was written by Charles Dickens, it was first published in the early Victorian era, so it is set in the Victorian times. It is about a little boy called Pip who when visiting his parents graves, is found by an escaped prisoner. The strange man tells Pip to get him some food and a file, so he can cut away the iron strapped to his legs. Pip runs home and follows the stranger's orders after he was threatened. The novel is written in an autobiographical form, this means that Pip, who is an adult, is telling his story since his childhood going on until reaching his current age. In the first chapter Pip visited his parent's graves, and as he turned his head, the stranger fiercely emerged into Pip's face, Dickens described the man as a "fearful man" ... "with a great iron on his leg"... "who glared and growled"..."as he seized me by the chin" he is very descriptive to make you imagine the danger of the convict so the stranger told Pip to go home after he was threatened and shaken. ...read more.

Middle

As the narrator, Pip actually makes the reader aware of the harsh conditions in his early life by describing his dead family and the fact he lived near the marshes with his sister and her husband, and how bleak and dark the place he lived in was, or as Dickens says: "Ours was the marsh country". The atmosphere in the opening is quite dark as Dickens starts by informing us of Pip's dead family, he had also used the words "tombstone, black, dead" etc. This effect makes the reader feel sorry for the boy. Paragraph 3 is also really 'dark', Dickens uses the words "bleak" or "overgrown with nettles" to make us picture those scenes, by doing this he influences our feelings towards Pip in the horrible atmosphere of that unwelcoming place. When the prisoner emerges, the mood switches to a more frightening one. The convict holds Pip by his chin and uses these words to threaten him: "Keep still or I'll cut your throat". He then starts to ask Pip several questions before ordering him to get him the file and "wittles" (dialect for food). ...read more.

Conclusion

He then has nothing else to say and lets Pip go, as Pip walks off he describes the mans legs as "like a man whose legs were numbed and stiff". He tries to picture the prisoner's bad condition. Dickens tries to describe the dull atmosphere of the marshes in various ways like: "the river was just another horizontal line, not really so broad nor yet so black", and "the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines inter mixed". As we imagine the descriptive detail he then places objects which are mixed in the background of the picture to help us imagine this in our own way, and by making us connotate the atmosphere with the objects e.g. the gibbet connotates to the danger and death. Dickens created this good opening by increasing the tension of the reader in the opening, giving the reader no chance but to read on, until the end of the story to see what is going to happen to Pip and the Convict. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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