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How does Dickens Engage the Reader in the Opening Five Chapters of Great Expectations?

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Introduction

10th July 2003 How does Dickens Engage the Reader in the Opening Five Chapters of Great Expectations? Charles Dickens was and still is, a very popular and influential author. He was born almost 200 years ago and his stories were often based on the lives of the unfortunate in the 19th century in Britain. He created a great variety of characters and settings to produce work that is still adored today. But why was his work, I am especially focussing on Great Expectations, so engaging and how did the opening five chapters of Great Expectations encourage the reader to carry on? Charles Dickens lived between the years of 1812 and 1870, and during this time wrote many stories. The general theme in most of his stories was of the mistreatment of the less fortunate people in Victorian society. He wrote about the plight of the poor and the harsh treatment of prisoners, the example in Great Expectations being that of Magwitch, turning to crime because he was a starving orphan. Dickens' own father had been imprisoned for being in debt. Also highlighted was the fact that many working class children were unable to go to school. Pip, the hero in Great Expectations, went to a school but it was ran by an old woman who was quite scatty and that Joe, his brother-in-law, had never been to school and could not read nor write. ...read more.

Middle

He is a very pompous man who just thinks that he is better than everyone else! 'Uncle Pumblechook who was omnipotent, waved it all away with his hand'. Setting and atmosphere are another of Dickens' fortes. In the famous novel of Great Expectations, Charles Dickens builds a variety of descriptive language up to create a very negative atmosphere but it is this atmosphere that engages the reader and encourages them to continue reading Great Expectations. The novel commences with Pip, and we learn how he is an orphan and at this time is looking at the tombstones of his parents, Dickens tells us this through Pips own voice. Also the fact that Dickens tells us that Pip is a small lonely boy in this setting enthrals us. The thought of Pip being an orphan for a start, and alone in a graveyard stirs feelings of sympathy for him. Pip begins to describe his surroundings and he speaks of 'scattered cattle' feeding on the 'dark, flat wilderness'. This reinforces the feelings of being solitary and of loneliness. Pip continues describing the scenery negatively, talking of the 'low leaden line' to describe the river. This brings thoughts of heaviness and being trapped. ...read more.

Conclusion

This sends the tension rocketing and this is the very last paragraph, which means the reader will be eager to find out whether these soldiers have come for Pip. In the same way as with instalments, the whole book makes you want to read on by having these tension raising events at the end of each chapter. Charles Dickens is constantly raising questions, not just in the first five chapters but also throughout the book. Who is Pips benefactor? Who are Estella's parents? In conclusion, each of these factors adds together to engage the readers of both the 19th century and today. Charles Dickens was a highly successful writer and this book shows why this was, even in the short section I studied. He engages the reader from start to finish through vivid use of characters and scenery and also the variety of delicate language he uses so well. I personally, enjoyed reading the first five chapters and it had indeed engaged me as I have read on through half of the book. I loved the descriptions of characters and setting and the gripping storyline. It is by these means that I believe Charles Dickens engages the reader in the opening five chapters of Great Expectations. ...read more.

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