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"What Are The Realistic Elements In "Great Expectations" By Charles Dickens And How Successful Is The Novel In Exploring Its World?"

1191 words - 5 pages

Realism was developed by the middle of the 19th century as a response to the idealistic world of romanticism which had dominated for the past half century. It was an aesthetic movement which attempted to hold up a mirror to its society to show a true reflection of reality. Although claiming to offer a slice of life by emphasizing chiefly in the importance of the ordinary amongst the middle and lower classes, realism is a relative concept, a representation of reality which adheres to a loose collection of conventions. Many of these are offered in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, which follows the life and struggles of the protagonist and narrator, Pip. Dickens uses techniques such as a chronological linear narrative, an omniscient narrator, the celebration of the ordinary, and the resolution of the enigma to drive the moral undercurrents of Pip's everyday existence. This constructed realism is essentially a representation of reality based on Dickens ideology, offering social commentary and reflecting the values and attitudes of nineteenth century England.The basic structure of Great Expectations follows a chronological development of Pip's life; from his childhood innocence, to his disillusioned expectations, finally his rejection of the high life and a circular succession ending back at the beginning. This chronological structure of which Dickens narrates exemplifies Pip's learning process through his moral and emotional turmoil and complies with the opportunity to generate a realistic setting. For example, Pip's description of London, "a most dismal place; the skylight eccentrically patched like a broken head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had twisted themselves to peep down at me through it," creates an archaeologically realistic description of London, and hints a sense of foreboding, foreshadowing the futility of Pip's expectations. This ideology developed through Pips learning process is created through a carefully crafted linear plot in order to present fiction as reality.Reflected by the matured Pip in the perspective of the omniscient narrator, Great Expectations' first person narration employs the wisdom of hindsight to define the events and characters of the story. Dickens imbues the voice of the matured Pip to make judgments on his past actions, at the Christmas dinner for instance, Pip experiences a deep desire to tweak Mr. Wopsle's large nose--to "pull it until he howled." The older Pip narrates this encounter comically and sympathetically, conveying his youthful innocence through the perspective of a child. This convention of retrospect produces a sense of psychological depth and compassion, given access to Pip's feelings, thoughts and motivations. As the newly democratic age finds importance in the individual, essentially Great Expectations is both an external novel in Pip's commentary of the society around him and an internal novel in the development of his perspective. By evoking consciousness of Pip's...

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