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How does Dickens present Pip's childhood at the beginning of "Great Expectations."

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How does Dickens present Pip's childhood at the beginning of "Great Expectations." Dickens presents Pip's childhood as unpleasant and full of misfortune. He encounters many fearful characters and does not have the most affectionate of families. Pip goes through arduous journeys to become an independent, mature, young 'gentleman', from a scared "small bundle of shivers". "Great Expectations" is a buildungsroman which shows Pip's personal growth and development throughout the novel. Dickens uses different techniques of language, the context of Victorian attitudes and comedy with self-deprecating humor and comic asides. In the first chapter, Pip has his first encounter with fear. This is when he meets the runaway convict in the 'dark, flat wilderness' that is the marshes. The condition of his surroundings enhances the fear that Pip feels and is described by Dickens as a 'savage lair' in which dismal and 'bleak' things are situated such as the gibbet. A beacon is mentioned in the text as well. This is where Dickens introduces symbolism of the novels concern with the path of life where guidance can be given - with penalties if this is not followed. ...read more.


This shows how the society of Victorian England was class ridden and hierarchical. Pip gets caught up in this society, wanting to a gentleman. At this point he is above himself as he contemplates that he could become a gentleman. In his earlier stages of life Pip seems to think that a gentleman is based on appearances and wealth but later realises that a genuine gentleman is acknowledged from within by kindness and honesty. Pip doesn't come from an affectionate and loving family as the only person that cares for him is Joe. His own sister, Mrs Joe acts like she doesn't want him and treats him like he doesn't deserve to be alive. In the 19th century it was conventional for children to be treated in this atrocious manner. They were 'to be seen but not heard' and were often degraded. Mrs Joe and Pip do not have a very tender relationship. It is very informal as we see by the fact that Pip calls her 'Mrs Joe' when it is his own sister he is speaking to. One of the causes for this is because she brought him up 'by hand.' ...read more.


This is understated humour as the older Pip cuts in between the dramatic explanations of the younger Pip accounts. Dickens can criticize his younger self. Dickens also uses comic asides which are extra bits of information that are funny: '...throwing me - I often served as a connubial missile - with Joe.... The older Pip is almost laughing at himself. When Dickens uses euphemism comedy is again created. This is when the harsh events take place and Pip softens it down so it does not seem as bad. This is shown in the brackets on page fifty where Pip describes how Mrs Joe scrubs over him with her ring as well although this is softened down. However outside the brackets, the way he is cleaned by Mrs Joe is exaggerated and is hyperbolic: 'I was soaped, and kneaded, and towelled, and thumped.' The repetition of 'and' produces a comical effect of the pain he is suffering. There is an irony that Joe was nicer to Pip than Mrs Joe, his own flesh and blood. Even though Joe was the only nice thing that happened to Pip, he still feels ashamed when he takes Joe to see Miss Havisham later on in the novel. ...read more.

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