Dickens' Techniques of Characterisation in Great Expectations
Many characters in Great Expectations are a rich and varied mix of
personalities, in particular Pip, Joe Gargery and Mrs. Joe.
The physical description of the characters is an example of the
techniques used by Charles Dickens. Other techniques include the
speech and habits of the characters, the characters' interaction with
others, the choice of the characters name and their surroundings.
The character who develops the most throughout the novel is Pip. In
the introduction, we are presented with Pip's depressing origins. He
is an orphan having never met his parents who allows the reader to
feel sympathetic towards him and understand why Pip might want great
Pip had never seen anything to do with his parents -including
photographs- except for the tombstones of their graves. This gives a
very sorry and gloomy picture of his childhood - one of Dickens'
Pip is shown to be very imaginative as he creates a picture of what
his father and mother looked like simply by examining the writing and
the shape of the letters on the tombstones.
His 'family name being Pirrip,' and his 'Christian name Philip' and
due to his 'infant tongue' unable to 'make of both names nothing
longer or more explicit than Pip', he christened himself Pip.
Another one of the techniques of characterisation Dickens uses is the
specific choice of their names. Pip is chosen appropriately for this
novel, especially at the beginning when he is 'about seven' because
his name means a seed, and this engages the reader into wanting to
know how Pip grows into a fully grown plant seeking his fortune.
Pip's sensitive and terrified side of his character is shown through
Dickens description of the landscape around Pip at the beginning. The
young boy, already scared by the graveyard, is described as a 'small
bundle of shivers growing afraid' of the increasingly somber
atmosphere such as 'the low leaden line' (the river) and the 'distant
savage lair' (the sea) 'from which the wind was rushing' when he comes
face to face with a frightening monster.
This technique of creating a very desolate atmosphere enhances the
mood of the novel's opening with its unfriendly and threatening
Another factor that influences Pip's fearful character is the way he
was brought up. Due to unfortunate beginning as an orphan, Pip was
nurtured by his older sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery and her husband Mr. Joe
Dickens uses the phrase brought up 'by hand' many times in the early
life of the novel. Usually, the phrase 'by hand' implies being brought
up with care and love, but with the description of Mrs. Joe as
'knowing her to have a heavy hand', the confusion is cleared...