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How important chapter one is in 'Great Expectations'

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Introduction

How important is Chapter 1 in "Great Expectations?" Opening chapters in novels are important because they introduce the characters and set the scene. The beginning chapters can also establish the time of the novel and the language. They must intrigue the reader and make them want to read on. The first impressions we get of the landscape in chapter 1 are miserable and leaden. "The bleak place overgrown with nettle was the church-yard". The use of the words "bleak", "overgrown" and "church-yard" are very dismal. The ground is wet and muddy. "Ours was the marsh country down by the river"; the road, "a long black horizontal line", runs across the marshes. It is early evening. "The sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed." By putting descriptions at the beginning and the end of the chapter, the cold, damp atmosphere is reinforced. It is also important that characters are established in the first chapter of the novel. The character Pip is established in chapter 1. We have also established the hard life of the Victorian times as Pip is orphaned and his elder sister has looked after him. This is because of the death of his parents and his five brothers. Pip is "a small bundle of shivers growing afraid" when he comes across Magwitch. ...read more.

Middle

For the first time in Pip's life, he has realised that some people live in another way. "A beautiful young lady...said I was common...I wish I was not common". He thinks he is wrong and wants to change to become a gentleman. Later he learns that he is to inherit a fortune. "My dream was out; my wild fancy was surpassed by sober reality; Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune on a grand scale". He has to bear the name of Pip and not ask who has given him the money. Looking back, he realises he was heartless: "O dear, good Joe, whom I was ready to leave...I was lost in mazes of my fortune would be." Later on in the novel Joe travels to London to visit Pip. During Joe's visit he feels he has to act differently and talk differently to Pip. "Pip, how AIR you, Pip?" he feels he is too common compared to Pip. As soon as Herbert enters the room Pip instantly feels ashamed about Joe. "A ghost-seeing effect in Joe's own countenance informed me that Herbert had entered the room. So I presented Joe to Herbert, who held out his hand; but Joe backed from it, and held on by the bird's-nest." Chapter 1 established the convict as frightening but with a human side, and this is shown again in chapter 39. ...read more.

Conclusion

At the beginning of the first chapter when Magwitch and Pip first meet, Magwitch is in charge of the situation. "Darn me if I couldn't eat 'em ... and if I han't half a mind to't!" Although their relationship has changed by the end of the book, some aspects of the language are the same e.g.- Magwitch still talks in an uneducated way: "I knowed you couldn't be that." At the end of chapter 56 Pip is in charge of his situation because he is helping Magwitch get out of the country without getting caught by the law, otherwise he would be given the death sentence. "Dear Magwitch, I must tell you, now at last. You understand what I say?" Magwitch still talks in dialect and old-fashioned. "Thank'ee, dear boy, thank'ee. God bless you! You've never deserted me, dear boy." The way Pip talks has changed. "Are you in much pain to-day?" Pip talks in a higher class and like a gentleman. Chapter 1 was important because it established setting, character and language for the rest of the book. It also began the story and set it in the harsh world of Victorian England. The message of the book is that gentlemen are not created by education or birth but by how they treat other people. For example, Bentley Drummle is born a gentleman but treats his wife cruelly whereas Joe is a workingman but is kind and thoughtful to others. Debbie Campbell ...read more.

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