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

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Introduction

What is the significance of Chapter 1 of Great Expectations in relation to the novel as a whole? Considered by many as Dickens finest book, Great Expectations begins in Kent and set at the time of Dickens own childhood (1810 until 1830), looks at the life of Philip Pirrip (known as Pip) as he grows from a little boy into a gentleman. Brought up by his shrewish sister, Mrs Joe, and her husband, the simple, kindly, blacksmith, Joe Gargery, since the death of his parents and 5 younger brothers, he falls in love with Estella (daughter of Magwitch, and brought up by Miss Havisham). When told of a mystery benefactor who has provided money he travels to London to become a gentleman. Due to the death of his parents at a young age, Pip was brought up by Mrs Joe, a tall, bony, heavy handed women, and Joe, a fair man with curls of flaxen hair, mild natured and held a sort of Hercules in strength-and in weakness. Later in chapter 8 Pip meets Estella, a proud, beautiful girl brought up to despise men by Miss Havisham, who was jilted on her own wedding day, when Pip is sent for by her at Satis House (Enough house). ...read more.

Middle

The setting of Pip's meeting with Magwitch almost always symbolizes a theme in Great Expectations and always sets a tone that is perfectly matched to the novel's dramatic action. The misty marshes near Pip's childhood home in Kent, are used several times to symbolize danger and uncertainty. As a child, Pip brings Magwitch a file and food in these mists; later, he is kidnapped by Orlick and nearly murdered in them. Whenever Pip goes into the mists, something dangerous is likely to happen. Significantly, Pip must go through the mists when he travels to London shortly after receiving his fortune, alerting the reader that this apparently positive development in his life may have dangerous consequences. The setting of the misty marshes additionally sets an anxious, tense atmosphere leading up to the moment when Magwitch jumps up behind a frightened Pip. Chapter 1 includes the famous encounter between the fearsome Abel Magwitch and young Pip. Many consider this chapter to be extremely important in relation to the plot of the book. ...read more.

Conclusion

After chapter 1, the reader has the impression that the convict is a heartless criminal because of the way he used and frightened Pip into getting him food and a file. Though, after Pip finds out that his benefactor is Magwitch the reader sees how kind he is, and how venerable he really is. Though Dickens gives us no indication of Magwitch's future in Pip's life, he does create the sense that the convict will return, largely by building a sense of mystery around the man's situation and around his relationship to the second convict Pip encounters in the marsh. Also he made another reference to the convict when Pip is with Joe and a man he was talking to produced a file out his jacket and stirred his drink. Additionally, the reader is given a slight clue his future benefactor when money is given to Pip by the man in the pub. Basically, Pip's meeting with Abel Magwitch is extremely important as it sets the scene for the entire novel and begins a chain of events that lead up to him becoming a well respected gentleman, and realising that there are more important things in life than wealth. Lauren Houlton ...read more.

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