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How Does Dickens Engage The Reader In The Opening Five Chapters Of Great Expectations?

2197 words - 9 pages

Charles Dickens was and still is a very popular and influential author. He was born almost 200 years ago and his stories were often based on the lives of the unfortunate in the 19th century in Britain. He created a great variety of characters and settings to produce work that is still adored today. But why was his work, I am especially focussing on Great Expectations, so engaging and how did the opening five chapters of Great Expectations encourage the reader to carry on?Charles Dickens lived between the years of 1812 and 1870, and during this time wrote many stories. The general theme in most of his stories was of the mistreatment of the less fortunate people in Victorian society. He wrote about the plight of the poor and the harsh treatment of prisoners, the example in Great Expectations being that of Magwitch, turning to crime because he was a starving orphan. Dickens' own father had been imprisoned for being in debt. Also highlighted was the fact that many working class children were unable to go to school. Pip, the hero in Great Expectations, went to a school but it was ran by an old woman who was disillusioned whilst Joe, his brother-in-law, had never been to school and could not read nor write. Dickens did not of course have the problem of being illiterate, but he had been removed from school at the age of 12 because he needed to work to help support his family.The story in a way is a fairytale, as Pip turns from a poor boy to a rich well-to-do gentleman. It engages many with just this storyline, but Charles Dickens really excels in his creation of characters and his descriptions of them.Charles Dickens introduces us to many characters in the first five chapters and all of those are described vividly. In their individual ways they entertain and compel the reader to continue reading.The first character we meet is Philip Pirrip, or Pip, as he prefers to be known. Charles Dickens' choice of the name 'Pip' was very clever as a pip is a small seed found in fruits, which if treated and maintained appropriately can flourish into something, both extravagant and magnificent. He is alone when the novel opens and indeed lonely and he describes himself as a 'small bundle of shivers'. He is scared, alone and nervous, looking at the graves of his parents and five brothers. As we learn all of this on the first page, it makes the reader feel sympathy for Pip, as he sits mourning his parents. We want to know what will happen to him. We then continue to read and meet Magwitch, an escaped convict, under terrifying circumstances for Pip. He threatens Pip, saying 'keep still you little devil or I'll cut your throat'. That one sentence does enough to engage the reader to carry on. They are scared for and also with Pip. Charles Dickens brings this feeling of empathy because he uses first person narrative, putting us right in Pip's shoes. Pip engages the reader by being a small innocent child in a precarious situation and when we learn of his home life we feel...

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