Atmosphere and Tension in Great Expectations
In this essay I am going to write about how Charles Dickens creates
atmosphere and tension in the opening chapter, of Great Expectations.
Because the audience cannot see what Dickens wants them to, he has to
create atmosphere and tension to guide the audience through the
incident, as well as hooking the audience by keeping them interested.
Dickens intentionally creates that atmosphere because he wants us to
feel sympathy for Pip and what he’s going through. And if we care
about what happens to Pip we keep interested. Atmosphere and tension
set the tone and mood of the book.
Dickens begins his book by starting with Pip at the graveyard to
create atmosphere and tension, by referring to death and tombstones.
The story is set in a time were disease and death were common, before
any major advances in medicine, and it was ordinary to loose a lot of
your close family to illness. We are told by Pip, that his mother,
father, and five little brothers were buried there but that is all we
are told. By doing this Dickens has deliberately created a felling of
solitude and helplessness and makes the reader feel and identify with
Pip. Dickens tells us the churchyard is overgrowing with nettles and
there are gravestones all around the area. Instantly the graveyard
creates a morbid feeling, and knowing that Pip’s dead relatives are
surrounding him produces a scary feeling, that you wouldn’t want to be
in yourself. The reader becomes worried that a young child is in such
a place alone, which adds to the dread that something might go wrong.
Dickens also uses weather to create atmosphere and tension by making
it seem bitter, and cruel. The weather is described as a “raw
afternoon towards the evening”. This gives us the impression of a cold
atmosphere, with a darkening setting. The sea is then described as
“the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing”; this makes
us see in our minds eye, the wind as a beastly animal because Dickens
has used personification to describe the wind. By giving the wind a
human quality it gives the implication of the wind being alive which
adds to the tension. And because the wind has a living attribute this
give us the notion that the weather is attacking Pip and this begins
to overwhelm him. Dickens describes Pip like this intentionally, to
make Pip seem cold and alone. He describes Pip as “a small bundle of
shivers growing afraid of it all”. The weather seems to have a direct
impact on Pips feelings. The reader can relate to the way Pip is
feeling and sympathise with pip completely. The situation he is in
gives the impression of no redemption.
To add tension and atmosphere Dickens describes the convict as “a man…
who shivered and limped… and whose teeth chattered in the head”. This
shows us that the weather was so harsh even a man who has been though
what he has, could not endure it. As it was written at a time were