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Genre Conventions In The Treatment Of Origins In Great Expectations And Frankenstein

1703 words - 7 pages

The definition of Realism in Approaching Prose fiction is 'a style of writing that seeks to convey the impression of accurate recording of an actual way of life in a recognisable time and place' (Approaching Prose Fiction p31).Watt maintains that 'characterization and presentation of background' (The realist novel p219) to be of special importance in this genre.In both Great Expectations and Frankenstein the reader is led to identify with the characters' struggles and their faults. These are not represented as perfect 'types'. We see Walton's similarity to Frankenstein and his over eagerness to discover, we learn of Pips mistakes, his pretension and misreading of situations. These are deliberately crafted to be more than 'good or evil' and therefore give an impression of reality. In this respect just as the reader has developed through their origins and experience, so has Pip, Magwitch, Frankenstein and the monster. The backgrounds are detailed and identifiable as is the time.In this sense despite any fantastic events the novels are predominantly realist. Despite this neither book remains strictly constrained within this genre. I will concentrate on how the genre conventions influence the portrayal of the origins of two characters from each novel.Great Expectations is narrated in the first person by an older Pip reflecting on his younger self. The introduction is made immediately as he tells us not only his full name, but also how his 'infant tongue' created the name he is referred to by throughout the book. The origins of the name which seems to have the symbolic connotations of 'seed', has it's roots in a mundane and believable event.In one sense Pips origins lie with the gravestones and in the forge, however the origins of the conscious Pip lie, In his own words ; 'My first, most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening.' (P3) The description of the gravestones serve to contribute towards what Barthe calls the 'reality effect' (The Realist Novel P 260). Meeting Magwitch was not just the conscious origin of Pip but also of the story itself.The description of the marshes would correspond to the wild landscape of Sedgwick's rules (The Realist Novel (p63), pip describes himself as 'a bundle of shivers' (P4) and corresponds with the trembling sensitivity' Sedgwick's second rule. Magwitch is certainly seen as a 'tyrannical older man' and the scene also contains images of the undead with 'eluding the hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves' (p6-7), Magwitch is described as he approaches the gibbet 'as if he were the pirate come to life, and, come down and going back to hook himself up again.'. (p7). The gothic, indeed melodramatic elements of this meeting sit well as the language has changed to show the convict as seen through the eyes of a terrified small boy. The language is straight forward and Magwitch is 'a terrible voice' and...

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