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.
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 wealthy and being common.
The quote, ‘low leaden line’ is a use of alliteration which is another technique used by Dickens, to create a vivid image of the landscape. This slows down the pace of the line and makes you feel as though you are being dragged down. This coincides with the novels setting in marshland because marshland feels really heavy and drags you down. Pip is always being dragged down and I believe that Dickens deliberately set the novel in marshland for this reason.
The phrase, ‘the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed’ is yet another method Dickens uses, colour symbolism. The colours mentioned are not the usual colours associated with sunsets; instead these are harsh colours which again reflect Pip. Red is commonly linked with words such as: anger, danger, and blood. Black is the other colour used and it is generally related to terms such as: death, mourning and darkness. All of the words mentioned are all associated with Pip, for example, mourning relates to Pip because he mourns for the loss of his parents and siblings, so this quote is another use of pathetic fallacy.
A method similar to colour symbolism is object symbolism, Dickens talks about a ‘gibbet’ and a ‘beacon’ which are not that significant when first mentioned but are connected with what happens further on in the story. When Magwitch is convicted he is sentenced to hanging, which would have taken place on a gibbet. Also when Magwitch is trying to escape he wants to leave by boat, which would have been guided by a beacon. Despite the objects are of no consequence at first, they show what is going to happen towards the end of the book.
In chapter eight we are introduced to Miss Haversham, Estella and Satis house. When Dickens is describing the scenery and characters in this chapter he again uses a variety of literacy techniques.
When Pip first arrives at Satis house there is a repetition of the word bars, bars are normally associated with imprisonment and this represents what has happened to Miss Haversham. She has locked herself away from love and people, just as she would if she was in prison, and has locked Satis house from love and people as well. The quote, ‘had a great many iron bars to it.’ shows how Satis house has been locked away from the outside world and reflects Miss Haversham’s position therefore making it pathetic fallacy.
Dickens also uses similes, like the one on page 53 of the novel. ‘Like the noise of rigging at sea.’ explains how the courtyard is empty and also goes back to how Dickens explains the scenery in chapter one.
The emptiness described reflects Miss Haversham and Pip because both have empty lives. Miss Haversham has closed herself away from everything and has become empty whereas Pip has no one to love him because his parents have both died and his sister has no time for him. This is another use of pathetic fallacy because the emptiness described in the simile reflects both characters as well.
When describing the inside of Satis house, Dickens makes the house sound very gothic and ghostly because this can mirror Miss Haversham who is a gothic and ghostly person. By locking herself away and only being exposed to artificial light she has become pale and white, which is what ghosts are usually depicted as. The house is also very dark and Dickens has done this because he wants to relate the house to Miss Haversham, making this another example of pathetic fallacy.
Now I will talk about characterisation with Magwitch and Miss Haversham and how Dickens describes the two. When the readers are introduced to Magwitch they see him from the perspective of Pip. We hear his voice first, which is described as terrible, and then see him emerge from behind the graveyard. He is dressed in very ragged old clothes and shoes and is not wearing a hat, which indicates he is very common as most men would wear a hat to show off their status so by not wearing one he appears common. He has a very strong cockney accent and Dickens picks up on this by spelling some words so that they are pronounced phonetically, ‘Pint out the place’ would be said as it is shown to get across the fact that he has a very strong cockney accent. He is also the person you least expect to be Pip’s benefactor, so by describing Magwitch as very common it makes it very confusing when he announced as Pip’s benefactor.
And finally Miss Haversham, who is described again from the point of view of Pip. She wears, ‘Rich materials-satins, and lace, and silks’ and we assume that she is upper class by her clothing and her house. The sentence structure helps to increase the tension before Pip first sees her; we think she is going to be a ghostly character and what is described is that. When she talks it is in a quiet, distant tone but she very manipulative in what she says. ‘Play, play, play’ is a quote which shows how in control she is, by having so much sympathy with her she is able to manipulate people because they don’t want to hurt her feelings. So even though she may seem a disturbed character she is not the mental case everyone thinks because she is in total control of everything regarding her. She constantly questions Pip which makes him feel very uncomfortable and reluctant to do anything to hurt her feelings, so really she is getting him ready to be her new toy that she controls.
So in conclusion, Dickens uses a variety of literacy techniques to set the scene in Great Expectations and also to create strong complex characters, such as Magwitch and Miss Haversham.