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What is the significance of Chapter 1 in Great Expectations in relation to the novel as a whole?

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Introduction

What is the significance of Chapter 1 in Great Expectations in relation to the novel as a whole? Great Expectations is a riveting book set in Victorian London and published in 1861. The novel is set in historical context and illustrates ideas of implication such as how the really interesting people could often be found in the lower classes, in the time of social division and where the shift from agriculture to industrial processes was contemporaneous. Nevertheless the plot contains significant relevance to modern day life in the subtle message that we can be happy as we are; we don't need always to aim higher at riches. This great novel is so successful as it applies to historical and contemporary issues alike in themes such as: isolation, guilt, greed, sorrow, forgiveness and social reform. These themes are all elaborated on in the text which is comprised of complex language structures that is mostly formal whilst remaining personal with the reader as well; sentences are structured diversely with short sharp quotes in juxtaposition to lengthy descriptive and often either first person of passive language (which is characteristic of Dickens and the time) "Great Expectations" is one of Charles Dickens more mature and profound items of literature and is classed by many as "the last of his great works". Great Expectations is typically characteristic of his later books which satirize social division and are more radical that its predecessors and the comedy more savage in that the way the plot is melodramatic in portraying wealth as boring and the cause of other's suffering. Also theses points are shown in the construction of exaggerated attitudes for characters which stereotype groups. "Great Expectations" clearly incorporates his personal beliefs and childhood experiences of being born partially neglected in a large family which he later became isolated from when he lost his parents to jail, when they were condemned for debt. ...read more.

Middle

Estella also psychologically torments him later on in life when she refuses his gestures of love and "breaks his heart". Ms. Havisham is also initially impending on Pip and makes him feel uncomfortable, as can be seen from "are you sullen and obstinate?" Pip feels very threatened and scared by Ms.Havisham and feels awkward to play in front of her. Mr Publechook is aggressive and patronising to Pip "Seven times nine boy!" the impersonality and the reference to Pip as Boy reduces him to an inferior; this is a similar to the patronizing mood that was created in chapter one by the convict "keep still you little Devil or I'll cut your throat," although the convict was perhaps more extreme in making Pip feel at unease. Even idle characters in the development of the plot such as Ms. Havisham's acquaintances in chapter eleven mock and patronise Pip "poor soul!" This isn't the only negative encounter Pip experiences in chapter eleven as later on he acquaints with a pale young gentleman who audaciously challenges "come and fight", this is a shocking development in the plot and shocks us (again linking to the abrupt entry of the convict in a similar fashion in chapter one). To our even greater surprise for the first time in his life Pip prevails over the aggressive attack, overcoming his fear "I was secretly afraid when I saw him to dexterous." This perhaps for the first time shows Pip's strength of character. Linking on from the aggression displayed is the issue of danger in the book. As Pip develops he himself becomes disdainful of certain characters, which could be expected as a result of all the bad treatment he has received. Pip disliked Bentley Drummel and although to an extent Pip provokes Drummel, he still receives unnecessary aggression from him in quotes such as "go to the devil and shake yourselves." ...read more.

Conclusion

Pip in chapter one is polite, scared, confused and looking in vain for an identity, "small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all...was Pip." The image of Pip develops into a satisfied, determined and distinguished figure at the end of the book, "suffering has been stronger than all the other teachings and has taught me...I have been bent...into a better shape," a summary quote from Pip himself clarifying to himself and the readers his immense happiness at finding himself (and it wasn't what he had originally desired). The convict who appeared cruel in his first appearance begins to appear kind and gentle. Estella who appeared factitious at first is portrayed as a good woman in the end with good intentions "God Bless you," the reference to religion is also relevant as religious teachings of reform and forgiveness are being displayed, it is a subtle message from Dickens to society that they can change. Even the sister changes from an over strict, anxious tormentor to a vulnerable women who relies on Pip. We see loss in this book; the convict loses a daughter (Estella) but gains a son (Pip). Pip loses his parents at the start of the book and then following on he is arguable unfortunate to lose his parental figure of his sister as well. Joe loses his wife and leaves his once unhappy marriage with her to start a new life with Biddy in an apparently joyous life with a child for the first time. Great Expectations is in my opinion a marvel of literature that manages to stand the test of time and remain interesting to modern day experiences. We can all relate to themes of failure and vulnerability, of guilt and of secrecy. The book is intensely engraved at every point with moral issues, surprise and a brilliant contrasting plot that positions it apart from all other books published at the same time. A lot of its success is the incessant repetition and development of themes commenced in chapter one. 1 ...read more.

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