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How effective is the opening chapter in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations?

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Elizabeth Honey How effective is the opening chapter in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations? Charles Dickens was one of the outstanding writers of the 19th century. He has written many well-known books such as 'The Pickwick Papers', 'David Copperfield' and 'Our Mutual Friend'. He had an unsettled childhood as his father had money problems and he was often moving from town to town. His writing could be interpreted as a reflection on his own life, as his intricate and elaborate story lines usually revolve around themes of poverty and the oppression of children by adults. Education was a big part of Dickens' life. He loved to read and write and always believed in his ambition that one day he would become a journalist. Before his ambition was realised Dickens' worked for a magazine, where his first work was published. As his stories were printed in instalments Dickens' needed a way to make his audience buy the next part of his stories. To do this Dickens' would add to the story a new character or twist to the plot, and each instalment would contain a varied mix of drama and comedy. ...read more.


Magwitch, on the other hand, is an escaped convict. He is depicted as very frightening, strong and threatening. The instant that Magwitch is introduced into the storyline we are given a glimpse into his personality. 'Keep still you little devil, or I'll cut your throat!' He is aggressive towards Pip, and uses his tactic of threat to make Pip obey him. When he asks Pip to bring him food and a file he makes clear to Pip that he is in charge and will decide weather Pip is allowed to live or not. "'Now lookee here,' he said, 'the question being weather you're to be let to live'" Magwitch is described as: 'A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who has been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled.' A man of such description is bound to strike fear into such a small boy as Pip. ...read more.


Dickens has used dark, bleak colours, and has used pathetic fallacy with the wind and weather to create the sense that not everything is as it should be, and something is about to happen, this is very much similar to the opening chapter of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', where the 3 Witches meet in a derelict place in similar weather conditions. The ending of the chapter is very dramatic, Pips imagination takes over and he imagines that the man he has just spoken to is the pirate who was hung nearby, come back to life. 'The man was limping on towards this latter, as if he were the pirate come back to life, and come down, and going back to hook himself up again.' The chapter ends with questions which have been left unanswered such as 'Who was Magwitch?' 'Will Pip return with food?' 'Will he keep this meeting secret?' 'Will Magwitch kill Pip?' and so on, thus making the reader want to read on. Compared to Magwitch, Pip is only a tiny defenceless boy. He is scared by him and also by his own imagination. The reader feels sympathy towards Pip and easily understands how he must be feeling in such a situation. Overall I think that the opening chapter of this book is extremely effective, and leaves the reader with great expectations. IV ...read more.

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