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What is the significance of chapter one of 'Great Expectations' in relation to the novel as a whole?

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Introduction

What is the significance of chapter one of 'Great Expectations' in relation to the novel as a whole? 'Great Expectations' is well known for being a dark atmospheric novel, set in 19th century Victorian England. Dickens opens chapter one by introducing literary devices such as personificaton, emotive imagery, and repetition to his description. Themes of crime and social status are also involved, preparing the reader for the grimness of the novel. During the course of this book, Dickens is repeatedly referring back to various points of the first chapter, stressing the mood and description he is trying to put across. Chapter one is hence the foundation of the novel. Dickens' craft in creating dynamic and convincing characters in his novels is reflected in 'Great Expectations' where he presents a compelling image of the central protagonist. Verbs are employed to a great extent in order to clearly highlight the description of the characters. Pip is portrayed in the first chapter as a 'small bundle of shivers'. This emphasises not only how cold, scared and insignificant he is, but his naivety and lack of confidence are also defined and thus the reader's sympathy is instinctively invoked for this character. Dickens has shown Pip to be judgmental of the convict in the initial chapter, when he narrates, 'When the church came to itself - for he was so sudden and strong that he made it go head over heals before me...' It was Pip's belief that the convict could turn over a church, and by portraying this image, Dickens has further exaggerated Pip's naivety and awe of the convict. Progressing through the novel, Pip's expectations of London and his personal expectations are indicated to be poor. ...read more.

Middle

Dickens has been able to indicate how the actions at Satis House have an exaggerated effect on Pip's desire to be uncommon. 'Who let you in?' In Pip's mind, this would emphasise how much he stands out, not being able to fit in with the people at Satis House. By doing this, Dickens has supported the reader's idea of Pip's intense desire to improve in status. Pip's lack of confidence is portrayed when Pip feels he must try to excel himself in correcting his 'labouring' appearance. The picture painted of Pip is of someone thinking that only the outside appearance counts, and with this in consideration, we can see snobbish attitudes arising in Pip. In chapter thirty-nine, the identity of Pip's benefactor is revealed. The convict that Pip first met in the churchyard when he was a child, Magwitch reveals himself as Pip's benefactor. Pip has realised, as Magwitch is a convict, he will not be accepted as a gentleman. Pip thought his benefactor was Miss Havisham, an upper class lady, who got all her money legally in Britain, in which case she would be more of a gentleman. Dickens is portrayed as being very snobbish towards Magwitch. Pip is informed in chapter eighteen of London, a place where there is 'suitable education and maintenance'. Dickens has portrayed how Pip physically moves from the marshes to live in London, whereas he had only been moving psychologically beforehand. This shows his crave for education. Pip departs for London in chapter nineteen after sharing an emotional handshake with Joe. 'You may be sure dear Joe, I will never forget you'. In this sense, Dickens has moulded the character of Pip from innocence through to snobbery and an understanding of genuine love, virtue, goodness, and truth. ...read more.

Conclusion

When the weather is dark and stormy, trouble is usually brewing, and when Pip goes alone into the mist-shrouded marsh, danger and ambiguity usually awaits. The sense of embarking alone into the unknown becomes a recurrent motif throughout the novel. Dickens' craft has left the settings reflecting Pip's moods and hopes, which profoundly affects his state of thought. These factors are repeatedly highlighted, thus creating a heavy atmosphere. The reader is shown this through Pip's experiences of suffering and torture, both physically and mentally at the hands of his sister. These experiences are reflective of the surroundings being rough, uncultured and amplified by his later experiences at Satis House. It is when Pip makes it clear that his hunger to become a noble and well-educated gentleman would not be established in Rochester, the need for a different, wealthier setting becomes apparent. The gleaming metropolis Pip had wished for in London was non-existent, disappointing him, however, it was not Pip's state of mind that was affected or represented, but the immediate surroundings. Miss Havisham's state of mind and existence is well projected by the bizarreness of her surroundings, in particular the rotting wedding cake on the table on which she wishes her dead body to be placed and her relatives to feast upon her own flesh. The tainted chambers in which she resides equal these insane ideas. 'Are you not afraid of a woman who has not seen the light of day since before you where born?' Through Pip's narration, the reader has an insight into Miss Havisham's 'lair' which is covered in cobwebs and has boarded windows, preventing any natural light entering the chamber. This setting complements the eerie, withdrawn character of Miss Havisham. The vivid set presented by Dickens seems quite stereotypical of how the dwellings of a mentally infirm person may be, adding to the effectiveness of the description of Satis House. ...read more.

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