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Why is the opening chapter of Great Expectations so successful?

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Introduction

WHY IS THE OPENING CHAPTER OF GREAT EXPECTATIONS SO SUCCESSFUL? Charles Dickens was born on February 7th 1812 in Portsmouth. He moved to London in 1822 aged 10. In 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth and they had 10 children. He was a great campaigner for social justice, and campaigned tirelessly against capital punishment and public hanging. He edited a monthly magazine, and serialized most of his novels. He wrote a Christmas story every year, including 'A Christmas Carol' in 1843. He died on June 9th, 1870. His most famous works include A Tale of Two Cities, the Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations. Great expectations is narrated by the character Pip, and opens with an in depth discussion of himself. The description that follows paints the scene and the situation that Pip is in. Dickens then writes about Pips encounter with the convict, terror and vulnerability are a large part of the chapter. The chapter closes with the convict and Pip each departing in their separate ways, Pip running home scared with his childish imagination showing itself, and the convict picking his way along the marshes. The novel opens with a scene of violence and horrific threat, '"hold your noise!" Cried a terrible voice', the convict is heard firstly as a voice, so Pip thinks he could be anything, the convict reveals himself in stages, firstly as a voice, so Pip thinks he could be anything, the convict reveals himself in stages, firstly as a voice, then he slowly shows his body, 'started up from among the graves'. The description that follows shows he is a 'criminal' with 'no hat', this is a typical stereotyped Victorian image of a convict, that he is fearful and unrespectable. ...read more.

Middle

When he is writing this, he is clearly an adult, 'unreasonably' 'an odd idea', he knows that when he was younger he had a very big imagination, and what he thought back then is not the case now, but probably derived from having no paragraphs. He reflects back to his thoughts as a child, 'childish conclusion', he is not ashamed of the thoughts he conjured, though presses on the fact that he was just a child. He considers life very tough, 'universal struggle', his life as a child, being brought up in quite a poor household has had an effect on how he views the way he has been brought up. He is religious, 'I religiously entertained', he has been brought up with his life centred around the church, especially with so many of his family dead. The scene of Pip in the graveyard opens with him being portrayed as small and innocent, 'small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry', he is in isolation in this bleak place, which enhances his fear, he is very much alone. Pip feels intimidated by Magwitch "sir", this shows Pip is polite, and trying to be civilized towards Magwitch in the hope that Magwitch will return it. Pip is terrified and desperate, "I pleaded in terror", Pip is begging for his life, desperately clinging to the hope that the convict may show some compassion. Pip is poor, and the first sign we have of this is when Magwitch empties Pip's pockets, 'there was nothing in them but a piece of bread', Pip is hungry, and this shows he is poor and has nothing. ...read more.

Conclusion

Magwitch is a very guarded person, and intrigues the reader, and makes them guess a lot of things about Magwitch's character. Pip is a small defenseless little boy, who is exposed and vulnerable to the dangers of the world. The reader automatically feels concern, and sympathy for him. As soon as the action starts between Pip and Magwitch, Magwitch is portrayed as the bad person, and Pip as the good, the reader automatically sides with Pip, and you follow his feelings and emotions right through the chapter. The setting helps create the dismal, eerie, and bleak atmosphere. The overgrown churchyard helps to create the perfect setting for what is going on in the chapter, as it represents Pip's feelings and emotions. Pathetic fallacy is found quite a lot in the chapter; it is used to give human traits to nature, e.g. 'savage lair'. Pip's life and world is the microcosm of the chapter, and contains in miniature all the features of the larger structure (macrocosm). Dickens chose the themes of the convict and crime, as these represent dishonesty, law breaking, and wrongdoing. He chose these images of the unacceptable and violent behavior, as the readers of the time would have had very strong vies on these. He also uses symbols such as the gallows, which people also associate with badness and law breaking. The theme of darkness and violence draws in the reader, and they become involved in everything that is going on in the chapter. Throughout the chapter Dickens uses different techniques such as the setting corresponding with feelings and emotions, and the great aspect of violence, to draw in the reader, and make them become more involved with the characters, and almost feel what they feel. Dickens skillfully leaves the chapter as a cliffhanger, making me (the reader) want to read more. Zara Smalley Page 1 ...read more.

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