How does Dickens use characterisation and description to set the scene in Great Expectations?

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How does Dickens use characterisation and description to set the scene in Great Expectations?

   The novel Great Expectations was first published in 1861 in Charles Dickens own magazine, Household Words. A small number of chapters were in each issue which were released every 3 to 4 weeks in a series format. The magazine left many cliff-hangers, much like soap operas nowadays, so readers would purchase the next magazine to continue reading the story. My essay will focus on chapter 1 and chapter 8 and I will talk about where Pip meets Magwitch and where Pip meets Miss Haversham.

In chapter 1, we are introduced to the main character Pip and the graveyard. Dickens puts emphasis on describing the graveyard in the opening paragraphs. When describing the graveyard Dickens uses a variety of literacy techniques in order to create a vivid illustration of the graveyard in the readers mind.

   One such technique is metaphor usage; ‘distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing’ is a use of this technique. The passage is used to create a tense, dark atmosphere but also prepares the reader for the entrance of Magwitch. A lair is generally associated with beast creatures for example, bears or lions and together with the wind is rushing creates an image of a beast like creature coming out rapidly towards you, leaving you helpless. This is precisely what happens to Pip when Magwitch emerges from behind a grave, so the scenery is mirroring the character and this is an excellent example of pathetic fallacy.

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   However Dickens uses another method of writing when he is describing the forgotten surroundings and this is imagery. Most adjectives in the 3rd paragraph are used to create an image of neglect, both neglected scenery and a neglected child, Pip. The phrase, ‘bleak place overgrown with nettles’ is a term which portrays the landscape well and generates a strong image of neglect. This quote is also a use of pathetic fallacy because the area represents Pip because it has a drab life and is constrained by things it can’t control, in this case nettles but in Pips case not being ...

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