Leah Waterfield 30th January 2008
Compare chapter one of ‘Great Expectations’ in which Pip first meets the convict, with chapter thirty nine, when the convict returns.
Dickens wrote the novel ‘Great Expectations’ in 1861, but the story was set in 1807-1823. The novel is written retrospectively by Pip who, at the beginning of ‘Great Expectations’ is seven years old. In Dickensian England many novels were broken into serials. ‘Great Expectations’ was written in 39 parts, so cliff hangers were often used to entice the reader to buy the next instalment.
Long and verbose sentences are used throughout the novel, as was the norm in Victorian England. The sentences often had very detailed descriptions which the contemporary reader is not used to, but in the time the novel was written that is what was expected. The descriptions and verbose sentences are used to set the scene and to keep the reader interested. We see this in chapter thirty nine when the convict is revealing that he is Pip’s benefactor. Abel Magwitch speaks in long and prolix and dickens uses long paragraphs to emphasise all of Magwitch’s emotions tumbling out and the affection Magwitch has for Pip.
Although we see Magwitch has emotions in chapter thirty nine, he is the complete opposite in chapter one. Here he is shown as savage and terrifying. Magwitch even points out Pip’s ‘fat cheeks’ and threatens to ‘eat em’. This emphasised to the reader how vicious he is. He may be shown as ferocious in chapter one but chapter thirty nine is deeply contrasted as the reader notices how much Abel has changed. In chapter one Abel wears ‘coarse grey’ with ‘no hat’ and ‘broken shoes’ which tells the Victorian reader immediately that he is not a gentleman. These images, as well as the ‘great iron on his leg’ also tell the reader that the man is a convict and, since Dickens used stereotyping in his novels to emphasise qualities in a character, the reader knows that the convict is a bad person. When we see him in chapter thirty nine, however, the convict is ‘substantially dressed’ and wore a hat, which is what gentlemen were meant to wear. Abel dresses like this because Dickens wants to show the reader that Abel had had financial gain in Australia.