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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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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 convey. 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. 'I lived in a state of chronic uneasiness'. Pip's feelings for the ungrateful and conceited way that he treated Joe and Biddy, and the mature language he speaks prove to be the initial possibility of Pip becoming a gentleman. ...read more.


It is ironic how after torturing her little brother, Mrs Joe suffers abuse herself, becomes disabled and consequently dies. Pip is shown to be shy with most people, but is even more so with Estella, and resents her insults of him. Moreover, none of the woman in 'Great Expectations' reveal any true tenderness for Pip, and his deprivation of an affectionate maternal figure in life, combined with his lack of a tough, masculine character at home render Pip as a weak man. The lack of parents reflects upon Pip, who does not have a complete family so never has a chance of growing up in a family atmosphere. He would never experience a true bond with his mother and father, an element he longs for. Pip receives a letter informing him of Mrs Joe's death. 'That place without her, was something my mind seemed unable to compass'. Pip's life on the marshes with Joe and his sister is now lost as Mrs Joe was Pip's last living relative. Pip had started to realise his status but with Mrs Joe's death, it had now changed. Estella makes Pip aware he has no solid identity; however, Dickens uses the effect irony again when we as a reader discover that the wealthy Miss Havisham only adopted Estella, whose next of kin are both living criminals. Pip had thought of Magwitch as a father figure when in reality he was the father of the girl he loved. The themes of 'Great Expectations' only run so smoothly because of Dickens' use of first person narrative. The clever usage of Pip, the central protagonist, gives the author an advantage of portraying the non-spoken, emotive feelings of the character with little restriction. Pip is a character in the story that we can study, as his is the narrative voice of the novel. Dickens, in 'Great Expectations', shows enormous skill in his control of the narrative. Without any great variation in Pip's own narrative style, a vast range of characters are introduced. ...read more.


This setting compliments 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. In these melodramatic settings, Dickens occasionally creates an atmosphere of violence, stirring the reader's emotions effectively. Death by drowning is a horrible end, which Dickens reserves for some of his worst villains, (Bradley Headstone in 'Our Mutual Friend). Dickens knows that there are always obstacles to be overcome in the fulfilment of 'Great Expectations' and that those obstacles must sometimes be overcome violently. Mrs Joe, in her refusal to see anything at all in Pip, was an obstacle to great expectations, and therefore she had to go. Pip, who childishly believes that achievement and status will be conferred upon him, without any effort on his part, cannot bring him to harm her. Orlick puts into effect Pip's fantasy of vengeance. 'You done it; now you pays for it'. This is leading Pip into assuming her death is his responsibility 'I became aware of my sister- lying without sense or movement on the bare boards where she had been knocked down by a tremendous blow on the back of her head'. In this way, Dickens has acknowledged fantasies of violent revenge in 'Great Expectations'. Dickens' novels are classics. His writings are of quality and substance, which we study from a literary point of view. The sheer depth of both plot and character in all of Dickens' novels have a great impact to the readers and other authors. It is through the use of characterisation and imagery that Dickens is able to make his ideas most prominent in the minds of readers, signifying chapter one to be the core of the novel. In 'Great Expectations', his expert use of these authorial techniques allow Dickens to successfully criticise the prison system, the morals of society, and the social injustice of his time, making this novel to be one of the most greatest works of Victorian fiction. ?? ?? ?? ?? Neha Patel ...read more.

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