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Great Expectations, By Charles Dickens Essay

988 words - 4 pages

Essay on Great Expectations (by Charles Dickens)

Explore Dickens effective “language” to create “setting” and
“character” in the opening chapter of Great Expectations.

Dickens opens the theme of death early in the chapter. In the second
paragraph he mentions the tombstones of Pips parents,

“I gave Pirrip as my fathers family name on the authority of his
tombstone”.

This informs us that Pip experienced death at an early age. He goes on
to describe the churchyard and the land around continuing the themes
of death, and general negativity.

Pip says that,

“My most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems
to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening.”

The word vivid is used to create the impression that this afternoon
sticks out clearly in his memory and that its in contrast to other
things that have been forgotten and are less clear in his mind. His
use of the phrase “impression of” and the word memorable also show
that it has been impressed into in his memory - clearly something
important happened. The afternoon is described as raw this suggests
cold, wind, winter, bleak sore and no sun.

The place Pip is in is a churchyard and Dickens goes on to describe it
as bleak and overgrown with nettles. He uses negative language to
create a setting of bleak and colourless place as nettles are seen as
negative objects. The theme of death arises again at the end of that
sentence as it finishes with the words “dead and buried”.

Dickens then continues to describe the marshland outside the
churchyard as dark and flat implying that it is featureless – no
landmarks, bringing back the themes of colourless and negativity. He
also utilises the classic sentence formation of a list of three things
in, “with dykes and mounds and gates” and “the low, leaden, line
beyond” where he also makes effective use of alliteration. In addition
he mentions “scattered cattle” implying that there is no order to this
landscape, or even to the little “life” that exists there.

The brilliant phrase,

“the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing was the sea”,

uses language very effectively to create a powerful metaphor having
the sea as a wild beast in its lair from which the wind as running
away.

The quote,

“and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias and Roger, infant
children of the aforesaid, were also dead”,

tells us that Pips family was a typical Victorian one - large with
high infant mortality. This reflects Dickens own family. Dickens like
Pip was brought up near the coast – in fact his life had many
similarities to Pips so much so that people have suggested that Great
Expectations is close to an autobiography of Dickens. Dickens also did
not like the menial job he had when he was younger and thought he was
to good for his station, as Pip does later on in the novel. Dickens’s
father was imprisoned for debt at one time and Dickens and his family
were...

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