How successful is Dickens in gaining our interest as readers in the opening chapter of Great Expectations?

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How successful is Dickens in gaining our interest as readers in the opening chapter of ‘Great Expectations’?    Dickens promptly introduces the reader to Pip who serves both as the retrospective narrator and as the young protagonist of the novel. This works on a two level approach with regard to guiding us through the plot as an omnipotent narrator whilst simultaneously leading us through Pip’s life with the immediacy of a first person narrative. It is clear from the beginning that it is Pip’s perceptions which entirely define the events and characters of the novel. Dickens utilises this dichotomy in the opening chapter by exploiting Pip’s narrative perspective. We are introduced to Pip as if in the midst of a pleasant conversation with him, ‘I give Pirrip as my father’s family name…’ Immediately after however, we are subjected to the unravelling thoughts and fears of a frightened child under threat. This serves to capture our attention and instil a sense of compassion for Pip, for who we fear the worst.   Dickens employs Pip as the narrator to present a prospective and prophetic relationship between himself and the escaped convict. As a reader, this initially appears to be a strange concept solely based on the power dynamics between Pip and the convict and his demands, with Pip reciprocating for fear of his life. However, as they part, Pip looks back to see the man walking alone into the marshes. This metaphorical image of the convict hugging ‘his shuddering body in both his arms’ on the horizons with the gallows, is strikingly familiar to the initial image we had of Pip who was holding himself in the cold, alone in the churchyard with the gravestones of his dead parents. As a reader, it appears that their relationship seems to warm at that moment, with
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the two sharing a common loneliness and marginalisation from society – the orphan and the escaped convict. Dickens uses this characterisation to develop our imagination of Pip, in that whilst Pip is afraid, he instinctively displays a sympathetic reaction and remains resolute.   Pip’s description of the convict when he first meets him seems elongated in response to the time he would have actually viewed him with, as he ‘only [had] a moment to see it’. Pip describes the convict as a man ‘who limped, and shivered, and glared, and growled’. The repetition of the word ‘and’ before each verb makes ...

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