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How does Dickens create atmosphere and suspense in the opening chapter of his novel, 'Great Expectations'?

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Introduction

Great Expectations Coursework - Prose study How does Dickens create atmosphere and suspense in the opening chapter of his novel, 'Great Expectations'? Recently we have been studying Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It was written between 1860 and 1861 and was released as a periodical. One section was release about every fortnight. The time era in which it was written explains the "old-fashioned" language used, i.e. "My first fancies regarding what they were like..." The opening chapter of Great Expectations is very important as it is in all novels. This is because the author needs to draw in the reader and it also sets up the rest of the story. It tries to draw in the reader so they will not get bored and want to keep reading the novel. The opening chapter of Great Expectations is full of atmosphere. Dickens has created a very intimidating atmosphere. He has created this atmosphere mostly from having Pip, (the main character, also the retrospective narrator) ...read more.

Middle

He does this by using descriptions such as "This bleak place, overgrown with nettles". This makes me think of an abandoned place. This contributes to the atmosphere by having a vulnerable child in an overgrown place. This is also a way in which the atmosphere and suspense are built. Pip's name is very significant to this story. It shows him as a small child whose "infant tongue" could make nothing more of his proper name, Philip Pirrip. His family situation at the time is also very significant to the story. At this point, the reader does not know that he lives with his sister and his sister's husband (Mr. & Mrs. Joe Gargery). The reader may think that Pip has no family and lives alone. Living alone at such a young age in the mid 19th century would be very hard, begging and keeping protected from the cold. His imagination contributes to the suspense mainly as he is narrating it so the reader can see everything he is imagining. ...read more.

Conclusion

Why is he lamed, cut stung, etc? Why is he trying to force Pip into helping him? Why is he so interested in Pip? Dickens employs many narrative hooks in order to encourage the reader to read on. He never gives away too much information and always keeps the reader guessing. He uses lots of atmospheric and dramatic language and events. I particularly enjoyed the description of how Pip was 'tilted' further and further backwards by Magwitch as he was trying to intimidate and force Pip into getting things for him. Of course Pip agreed to do anything for Magwitch because he feared for his life. Magwitch gave Pip 'a great jerk so that the church jumped over its own weather-cock' to give an even greater feeling of authority and fear. I think this is a fabulous description as it made me fear for the well-being of Pip, and made feel very strongly against Magwitch. I think that these are the feelings that Dickens was trying to encourage. I personally think that Dickens was very successful at creating atmosphere and suspense and I really enjoyed reading 'Great Expectations'. Nathan Smith 10X1 1/2 ...read more.

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