How does Dickens create an atmosphere of fear and tension in the opening chapters of Great Expectations? Explain briefly how effectively these chapters prepare the reader for the revelations at the end of the second stage of Pip’s expectations and expose the frailty of Pip’s assumptions about the identity of his benefactor.
Charles Dickens successfully creates an atmosphere of fear and tension in the opening chapters by using characters to a remarkable effect, amplifying the differences between the two most important characters. Pip’s vulnerability is forced across to the reader, “Growing afraid of it all and starting to cry”, the present participle “growing” suggests that Pip is constantly becoming more afraid, it seems unbearable for him as well as the universal “all” further reinforcing the impression. By the time “he is starting to cry” it seems as though he has completely broken down. His vulnerability is further reinforced during their encounter when Pip answers “There, sir! “ I timidly explained”; it is clear that Pip is a polite character because he calls this man ‘sir’ despite the circumstances. Dickens exaggerates the fact that Pip explains this “timidly” as this means, shy, held back which shows he is hesitant on whether to point this place out.
Dickens presents fear and tension further by reinforcing the idea that the people who are close to him are actually so far away. The irony of his parent’s powerlessness to protect him when Pip is in danger despite being extremely close is a horrible reminder of Pip’s vulnerability and also enhances the reader’s feelings to empathise with Pip once again. Furthermore, using Pip as the narrator of this novel increases the fear and tension dramatically due to the novel being told by a young child whose imagination and thoughts are allowed to run wild whereas an adult reader would see the world a lot differently. Moreover, using first person perspective creates tension as it restricts the knowledge of the reader as well as limiting the knowledge to other characters that the reader will know. Pip is very childlike ‘distant savage lair’ suggests an animal is hiding out, a sly, scary monster; an adult would not foresee this in the same way.
On the other hand, Magwitch is presented as “A fearful man…with a great iron on his leg” the complete opposite of Pip. The adjective “great” shows that the man is stray, dangerous, determined and desperate-four things which Pip is truly the opposite. The “iron” suggests the convict’s character is cold, merciless, cruel and bitter highlighting that he is a fearful man. Anthropomorphism is used as the convict is put across as an animalistic character who’s desperate and who does not want to be shipped off to Australia. Magwitch is unpredictable and his threats made towards Pip are believable creating more of an edge as you know the convict could and would do what he implies. Complete exaggerated contrast concerning Pip and the convict is built up over an...