"It is the habit of my imagination", wrote one Victorian novelist, "to strive after as full a vision of the medium in which a character moves, as of the character itself." Explore the relationship between character and environment in any one or two fictional works of the period.
Both Great Expectations and David Copperfield are characterised by the close relationship between the characters and their immediate environment. This is emblematic of all Dickens' novels, reflecting Dickens' own life, recreating his experiences and journeys, using people and places to symbolise feelings and emotions.
David Copperfield opens to `Pip' in a churchyard on the eerie marshes of Kent sombrely reading his parents' gravestones. Dickens describes the scenery as:
"Dark flat wilderness...intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea" (Dickens 6)
This creates a picture of grey gloominess, which embodies how Pip is feeling at the time, as in the next sentence, he starts to cry. The sea is described as a "distant savage lair" (6), and the prison ship which is in the distance, on the sea, known as `The Hulks', Pip describes as "a wicked Noah's Ark" (39). This implies that he is scared of the sea, and The Hulks, and as this is most likely reflecting his state of mind, the reader presumes that this is how he feels a lot of the time when he is at home with Mrs. Joe and on the marshes. Home is a very uncomfortable place for Pip, made so by his sister and the contempt she holds for Pip.
In chapter eight, Pip finds himself at Satis House, home of Miss Havisham. Everything that surrounds this place and her life is in decay, rotting before our eyes. The marshes are closely linked to Satis House, the cobwebs on the hedges as Pip goes to visit his convict in chapter three are mirrored in the cobwebs on Miss Havisham's cake in chapter eleven, as is the image Pip has of Miss Havisham hanging from a beam in the disused brewery recalled from when Pip has the image of a hanging pirate in chapter one. Through doings this, Dickens is enlightening the reader of the links between crime and social oppression in the novel. Pip believes that when he is older Miss Havisham will let him marry Estella and will give him Satis House, and so this becomes his main desire. This represents all that he ever wants - wealth, status and Estella. Satis House portrays the emptiness of Pip's desires, a "ruined garden, a grim, ironic parody of the supposed pastoral qualities of the village...the house in which no emotions are nurtured but the convoluted, stunted and poisonous." (Schwarzbach 188) To Pip, the weeds in the garden look like "precious flowers." (Dickens 255)
The next instalment of Pip's life comes when he inherits a sum of money and goes to live in London. London plays a major part in all Dickens' novels, as...