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Look carefully at the opening chapter and subsequent chapters connected with the convict, Magwitch in Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations".

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Introduction

James Pearce 11B Look carefully at the opening chapter and subsequent chapters connected with the convict, Magwitch in Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations". Explore some of the ways in which Dickens introduces and portrays his skills as a writer and relevant themes of his 19th Century times. The themes which are relevant in "Great Expectations" by Dickens include prisons, the conditions of the poor, the importance of money and class, and oppression of children by adults. The main character is a small boy called Pip. He is the narrator of the book (i.e. it is in 1st person) so the audience sees events through his approach, and this gives Dickens the opportunity to strongly influence the readers opinions about children, as it does not really give any other point of view. The book "Great Expectations" starts with the main character, Pip, giving a short description of himself and his brief life. "So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip." Because the word "Pip" is small, it suggests images of a small, young, lonely boy who is vulnerable. "I gave Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone...". This tells the reader immediately that his father was dead, something that was common in the Victorian age, remembering that Dickens wrote for the people. Pip also never had a mother, "Also Georgiana wife of the above" (on the tombstone of his father). Those words, "Also Georgiana wife of the above" are not saying a lot about his mother, and Pip does not know a lot about his mother. ...read more.

Middle

Dickens has portrayed the convict in such a way from Pip's point of view that the convict himself almost looks vulnerable and lonely. If it were not for the fact the convict was an adult, he would be as weak as Pip. The sympathy slightly shifts towards Pip again, "Where's your mother?" "There, sir!" said I." The reader would feel more sympathetic towards Pip here as Dickens has reminded the reader that Pip's parents are not alive. This was common in the Victorian Times, a lot of parents had to work to put food on the table, they worked on machines which were unsafe and often claimed the worker's life. It is quite possible that Georgiana, Pip's mother, died in childbirth, again, not uncommon for the times. Dickens then brings back the horridness of the convict. "Who d'ye live with - supposing you're kindly let to live, which I han't made up my mind about?" Magwitch makes Pip feel very helpless again by exposing his throat. A lot of people feel weak when their neck is exposed, and this makes Magwitch is again portrayed as an extremely violent and desperate person, where perhaps jail was the best place for him to spend his life. This is more likely to be a stereotypical view of the convict, which Dickens is creating, rather than one of a convict that he has actually met. Hulks were used at the time to house prisoners and they were big ships that had retired and had no other use. ...read more.

Conclusion

Pathetic fallacy is used again by Dickens to create a sense of awfulness. "... picking his way among the nettles, and among the brambles" Nettles and brambles are nasty plants if someone gets caught in them, so they help to set the scene here. The pace has slowed down slightly, building up tension perhaps for Pip's encounter with his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery in Chapter 2, "Where have you been, you young monkey." possibly as daunting for Pip as meeting the convict as Mrs. Joe did not suffer fools gladly. Another idea is that adults dominate children's lives, and it has to be said not always for the better. Pathetic fallacy is again used at the end to create a particularly powerful image. "... the sky was just a row of angry red lines" Red means blood. Could this be a sign of things to come? Or a summing up of what has happened? Pip meets the convict again in Chapter 39, "There is some one down there, is there not?" so it cannot be a sign of what is to come, or at least for the next day when Pip gives the convict "wittles" and a file. Magwitch has been portrayed in a way by Dickens as such that on first sighting he looks like a tough middle aged man who is very physically overpowering, especially to a small boy, but shows signs that he is just as vulnerable as the boy himself, because of his lack of food, the chain between his legs and that there might be someone there with him to keep him safe. ...read more.

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