Great Expectations

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English Coursework: Great Expectations

I: Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. When he was about two years of age, he moved with his family to London. Dickens' father, John, laboured as a navy clerk. While Charles was still a young boy, his father was sent to debtor's prison. During that time, Charles briefly worked in a London factory pasting labels on shoe polish bottles. Even after his father's release, John's work barely provided enough money to support the family. Charles Dickens attended school sporadically until he was fifteen years old.

Charles was an avid reader whose interests included adventure stories, fairy tales, and novels. Earlier English writers such as William Shakespeare and Henry Fielding undoubtedly influenced Dickens; however, much of the knowledge and insights that he later applied as an author came from his keen observations and experiences. He became a newspaper reporter before he was twenty; covering debates in Parliament and writing feature articles. In 1836, Dickens published his first book, Sketches by Boz, a collection of articles that he had written for Monthly Magazine and the London Evening Chronicle. Shortly thereafter, he gained public literary fame with The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

Dickens exhibited warmth and humour and great understanding of humanity, especially young people. Besides writing and editing, Dickens toured as a dramatic reader and busied himself with charities that included schools for poor children and a loan society to assist poor people immigrate to Australia. His writing empathised with the poor and helpless and mocked or criticised the selfish, the greedy, and the cruel. His major works included David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, Pickwick Papers, A Tale of Two Cities, and A Christmas Carol.

Around 1865, Dickens' health began to decline and he died of a stroke on June 9, 1870.

One of his more famous novels was the story of a young boy, Pip, a hard working lad, who, through twists, turns and a mysterious benefactor becomes a well-spoken young gentleman in order to win the heart of another. This novel is entitled ‘Great Expectations’.

P1: During the first three paragraphs of chapter one, Dickens makes us feel sympathetic for Pip by telling us a little bit about his background. He begins with a statement that makes Pip look young and innocent by saying ‘my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip’. This already creates sympathy for Pip as it shows us that this child has not had an ideal upbringing, as he cannot say his own name correctly. Then Dickens writes about his family, they are all dead bar his sister, whom he lives with. He has never seen his father or his mother as ‘their days were long before photographs’ and his only idea of what they look like is through the lettering on their tombstones. This enhances the sympathy that Dickens has created for Pip, as never meeting or seeing his parents must be a terrible thing for him.

‘Phillip Pirrip

Late of this Parish

Also Georgiana Wife of the Above’

This is the only reminder and memory he has of his parents and that he had parents, the sorrow you now feel for Pip is probably what Dickens was hoping to achieve. However, he then goes on by saying ‘To five little stone lozenges’ ‘in a neat row beside their grave’, ‘sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine’. To now learn that he has lost five little brothers is sadder still. Dickens then uses clever imagery in the next lines, he said that Pip believes ‘they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trouser pockets’. This innocent but meaningful remark shows us that Pip felt he could not come to terms with the premature deaths of his brothers and takes comfort in the notion that they were born but had never taken their hands out  ‘in this state of existence’. Again, this conveys sympathy for Pip. Finally, Dickens writes about when Pip found out that these graves were the graves of his parents. It was on a ‘memorable raw afternoon towards evening’ that pip discovered ‘that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Phillip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above were dead and buried’. Alongside them was his five little brothers of his, Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias and Rodger, also dead and buried. This simple repetition of what was on the tombstone creates more sorrow and misery in this already cold and desolate place. The marsh is where Pip has lived all his life, and, along with his family background, creates the most powerful and sympathetic image of all.

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P2: The environment that Pip grew up and still lives in is very harsh to a small boy. The intimidating environment is incorporated and described several times in the passage. Firstly, we discover that Pip lives near a damp marsh near the sea. As you would think, living near the sea would be exciting and colourful, however, Dickens describes the land as a ‘bleak place overgrown with nettles’ and a ‘dark flat wilderness’ that is ‘intersected with dikes and mounds and gates’. This is a perfect description of a terrible and desolate place. One can almost see the ...

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