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How does Dickens create characters and settings that are both memorable and striking in the novel 'Great Expectations?'

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Introduction

How does Dickens create characters and settings that are both memorable and striking in the novel 'Great Expectations?' The author Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812 and died at his home 'Gadshill' in Kent in 1870. Great Expectations was his last but one book and was partly autobiographical. Dickens wrote Great Expectations in weekly episodes beginning in December 1860 and lasting for about a year. Many novels at that time were written like this and because it was written in episodes like a television series there are lots of cliff hangers because each episode had to end with suspense so that people would want to buy the next episode. The story was meant to be read aloud either at home or in larger halls and sometimes by Dickens who travelled the country giving readings from his books. The book was autobiographical in the sense that it agreed with his views on social class and the unfair way the poor were treated, especially in the criminal system. He shows this in Great Expectations in the way that Compeyson who was middle class was given a much shorter prison sentence than Magwitch who was low class and rough looking. Although Dickens's background was not very poor or low class his father's irresponsible attitude to money had caused the family to lose all their possessions and the whole family, apart from Charles, had a stay in the Marshalsea debtor's prison. ...read more.

Middle

He turns up at Pip's flat calling himself Mr Provis and shocks Pip by telling him he is the mystery benefactor. Pip is disgusted at first because he is so common. Pip tries to help get him out of England but it all goes wrong and Magwitch is arrested, condemned to death but dies in the prison hospital before he can be executed. Despite the fact that all Magwitch's property has been seized by the government and Pip is now poor he goes on visiting Magwitch and is with him when he dies. Magwitch dies happy because he finds out he has a beautiful daughter and feels it was worth it coming to England to see Pip again. Dickens is using the book to tell us that everyone has good in them and we should never judge people by their class, how they speak or dress. Miss Havisham lives in a huge, decaying house with her adopted daughter Estella. She is rich but she has let the house crumble around her because she is bitter and angry with life because she was left on her wedding morning by someone who was actually already married and couldn't have married her anyway. She hates all men and ruins Estella's life by making her treat men badly as well, in Chapter 12 Miss Havisham tells Estella to " break their hearts and have no mercy" The house is called ...read more.

Conclusion

It is unlikely that anyone was ever really called Magwitch. Miss Havisham's name sounds more like a real name but sham is when you invent something so maybe it is also an invented name. Jaggers' name sounds like something sharp and dangerous, just like his tongue. The name of Miss Havisham is remembered for funny old women who dress in ancient clothes and live in messy houses. There is even a modern poem called Havisham , based on Miss Havisham and written in 1998 by Carol Ann Duffy, which is in the GCSE Poetry Anthology and studied by many pupils. Dickens creates sympathy for some of his characters such as Joe, Biddy, Magwitch and Pip but not much for others such as Miss Havisham, Mrs Joe, Compeyson, Estelle and Drummle. This is a good technique as when the story was sold in episodes everyone would have a favourite character, a goody or a baddy and would want to find out what was happening to them, which would make them buy the story. The ending is a traditional happy one. We are told it is not the ending Dickens wanted but his friends advised him a happy ending was best. Many of the people who read, or were read aloud the instalments, had difficult lives living in poverty and they needed a happy ending to give them some happiness and relief from their own poverty and misery. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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