"Great Expectations" written by Charles Dickens. I have been analysing the way in which Dickens uses language techniques to create

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Great Expectations        Matthew Connor

I have recently been reading the famous novel “Great Expectations” written by Charles Dickens. I have been analysing the way in which Dickens uses language techniques to create themes, characters and a setting for his story. The novel itself was written in Victorian times and a lot of the themes that occur in the book were also very prominent in the Victorian era.

        Firstly I want to mention the similarities between the main character and narrator Pip and the actual writer Charles Dickens. They both had a very comparable childhood with family problems and suffering very early on in their lives. The most striking similarity though is that both Pip and Dickens were at the bottom of the social ladder and the theme of social status is probably the most important one in this novel. This theme pieces together the whole plot of the book with a lower class Pip always eager to better himself and reach the top of that ladder. I also believe that due to Dickens being initially subjected to a life of poverty he had a negative view of money and status; almost all the characters with wealth and status in the novel end up destroyed.

 Secondly I am going to discuss the effectiveness of the serialised format of the novel. Charles Dickens actually wrote the novel in separate chapters before eventually merging them to make the book. This therefore is why each chapter is like an episode of a drama with a cliff-hanger tempting the enthralled reader into reading on.        

        Throughout my coursework I am also going to analyse the use of themes within the novel. I believe that the most prominent theme throughout the book is the idea of social class. Social status has a massive impact on the book and was a very important part of Dickens’ life as well. Instantly as the first chapter unfolds we see many different examples of social status with the criminal, Joe and also Mrs. Joe all being manual workers. Later in the novel we also see several characters from a higher social class such as Estella and Miss Havisham. Throughout the novel though, we see Pip, a young labourer constantly trying to climb the social ladder, not only due to his ambition but also to impress the beautiful but much higher classed Estella, who had previously looked down on Pip referring to him as the “boy”.

        I also intend to look at the way Dickens used language to introduce the themes of death, childhood, loneliness and crime in chapter 1. Instantly as soon as the first chapter starts we are told how Pip (an orphan) is a child who has lost his family without ever knowing them. He is very imaginative in the way he constructs identities of his family based on nothing else but there tombstones: “The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair”. The theme of loneliness is therefore immediately put across with Pip a young orphan never even knowing his family and being dumped with his sister at a very early stage in his life. The theme of childhood is also introduced by Dickens with the reader feeling a lot of empathy towards the small, powerless Pip. The way Dickens introduces Magwitch as the evil and vicious criminal is a perfect way in which to expose the vulnerability of not only Pip but also the innocence of childhood: “After each question he tilted me over a little more, so as to give me a greater sense of helplessness and danger”. Death is also introduced by Dickens with the use of the tombstones and the eerie backdrop of a graveyard, but also the way in which Magwitch plays on the fears of a child by creating a monstrous character who finds killing as a hobby. Another use of language that portrays death, depression and destruction is the way in which Dickens negatively describes the setting: “The marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed. Repetition of the adjective black shows the visualisation of the scene and its surrounding.

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        There are many other themes in the novel that Dickens introduces throughout the duration of the book and it is interesting to consider them as they fade out of focus or some cases intertwine. I believe that the way in which Dickens introduces different themes is a way of putting his personal feelings and morals through the novel. One of the many other themes in the novel is education and the way in which money helps to provide an education e.g. Pip is a young manual worker at the start of the novel with a distinct lack of class or ...

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