In “Great Expectations”, Charles Dickens has surely created one of the most memorable novels of the Victorian era. It is still regarded as a success and it read by many admirers worldwide. The novel is based around Pip, an orphan who has been raised by his elder sister Mrs Joe. Pip narrates his story as he grows into a man of fortune following an anonymous inheritance. Throughout his novel, Dickens displays his skills as a creator of setting, atmosphere and character.
In the first chapter, the use of first person shows that we have been put in Pip’s prospect so that we can feel the emotions he is feeling during his growing up from a child to a man. “I pleaded in terror” is effective as it gives you a firsthand account to the drama so we are brought closer to the character.
When we read the first chapter, we are given clues that a ten-year-old is not narrating this novel. This is evident by the words used like “most vivid and broad impression”, “my first infant tongue” and “raw afternoon”. The words used by Pip are rather expressive and sophisticated which can suggest that Pip is now narrating as an adult instead of a child. Pip is recollecting and revisiting his past and narrating the events that have occurred in Pip’s childhood up to his adulthood.
The description of the churchyard is vivid and intensely detailed. It is described as a “dark flat wilderness beyond” which suggests the place is like a wasteland and a dump land. Pip is aged only ten and is visiting a graveyard on a dull windy day. This can have a traumatic effect on his mental health.
The line “low leaden line” shows a use of alliteration which emphasizes the grim description of the setting of the churchyard. The word “leaden” can also suggest that the dullness of lead has been smudged across the churchyard which gives its dull complexion. In the churchyard, the landscape from a distance can be seen as a line which has been smudged to give it its industrial looking colour. Furthermore, the line “distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea” describes the impending danger. This is because there are always the natural elements and species that can sense danger before humans can. However, in this case the wind rushing suggests that there is danger that is on its way. The word “savage” is a word associated with violence and brutality which suggests that something terrible is on the “horizon”.
This is also followed by Pip feeling afraid of the atmosphere around him. He begins to cry alone in the churchyard. “Shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry was Pip” shows that the atmosphere was too much for Pip to cope. When you get shivers, it is usually connected with the sense of something going to happen or something you are feeling.
Dickens creates a tense build-up of descriptive language which leads up to the inevitable danger, Magwitch. The arrival of Magwitch, who is an escaped prisoner from the Penal System, continues the tense and anxious drama.
Magwitch who rises “among the graves at the side of the church porch” frightens Pip who hears Magwitch’s voice as terror. When Magwitch arises among the graves it gives the impression to Pip that someone has awoken from the dead. This scares Pip.
Magwitch is described as a “fearful man” who’s in “broken shoes” and is wearing “an old rag tied around his head”. This suggests that Magwitch is in a filthy state and is desperate to gain a secure escape from the police.
All writers who introduce and create characters in their story do it for a certain reason. In this case Magwitch is a key character at the beginning and at the end of the story. When Magwitch is described, he is described as a “fearful man”. Writers also create characters in a way they want you to see them. In this case, Dickens creates Magwitch as “fearful”. Dickens wants the reader to hate Magwitch as much as possible but brings Magwitch back into the story line as a changed man which changes the readers’ thoughts out Magwitch.
When Magwitch is being described by Dickens, he is described as a list with a never-ending feel. Dickens uses the words “a man” several times followed by the word “and” which shows that he is listing the details about Magwitch. This is an example of repetition which joins many other techniques used by Dickens.
The words “………….. teeth chattered in his head” shows a use of onomatopoeia. This is effective in portraying Magwitch to the reader as cold. Also when these words are read aloud it can feel as the reader can hear the chattering. The noise of the teeth chattering can make Pip feel that Magwitch is a deadly animal. This seems that Magwitch is portrayed as “terror” and as animalistic. However, Pip is unaware that Magwitch is desperate. This creates the tension for both the reader and Pip.
The words “hold your noise” is described in a “terrible voice”. This frightens Pip as he is “seized by the chin”. This leaves him motionless; unable to move.
The relationship between Pip and Magwitch is solely based on fear and desperation as all Magwitch wants is a “file and wittles”. Pip is frightened of Magwitch as he wants to live. Magwitch threatens Pip by saying “I’ll cut your throat off”. This frightens Pip who replies “Don’t cut my throat, sir”. This shows a very child-like plea to Magwitch.
The “!” shows that Magwitch is using a forceful voice on Pip to suggests that he is demanding. This tone used by Magwitch is used to scare Pip so that he obeys Magwitch’s orders. This will trap Pip to agree as he doesn’t want to be killed.
When Magwitch asks Pip to point out the place he lives, it is stated that he lives “a mile or more from the church”. This scares the reader as they begin to feel that Pip is in a helpless situation and is in trouble. The line makes us feel that if there was an incident in which Pip is hurt, there is a distance between the church and the home.
After finding out the state Magwitch is in, we find out that he is a very muscular and strongly built character. This is shown as he turns Pip upside down to see if there is anything hiding in his pockets. Instead of searching in a humane way, he just tilts Pip to empty his pockets. There is nothing but “a piece of bread” which he eats “ravenously”. This shows that he is a desperate man and suggests that he has been living long without the supply of food. While he eats, Pip lies helplessly trembling.
After eating “a piece of bread”, Magwitch looks deeply into Pip’s eyes to give him a “great sense of helplessness and danger.” He asks for “wittles” and a “file” after hearing that Pip lives with a blacksmith. As the session of tilting Pip back and forth ends, Magwitch concludes the session with a final threat by saying “Or I’ll have your heart out.” This leaves Pip “dreadfully frightened” and he now knows that he must get bring the “wittles” and the “file” or else Magwitch is going to kill him.
The reader at this stage seems to think the Magwitch is a mean and horrible character after the way he has treated Pip. However, there is a heart in this filthy man when he discovers that Pip’s father, mother and brothers have passed away. This is shown when he says “Ha” to suggest that he is sorry for Pip.
When Magwitch finishes his torturing to Pip, he begins to have a formal conversation with Pip; as like nothing has happened. However, the most important thing is when he takes Pip down from the tumblestone by hand. This is contrasts the behaviour of Magwitch as Pip has promised Magwitch that he will get him his needs the very next morning. The chapter concludes with Pip running home continuously as he is “frightened” of the incident that has taken place.
Instead of being welcomed back by Pip’s sister Miss Joe, Pip is greeted with Miss Joe’s verbal abuse of how hard it is to bring up a child. This shows that after being savaged from an escaped prisoner, he is now being taunted by his sister. The events that have taken place show that there is a lack of happiness for Pip at such a young age which makes his vulnerable to the dangers that loiter. The reader at this stage becomes more sympathetic in Pip’s condition. “”.
When Pip steals the food and a file from his elder sister, it feels like Magwitch and Pip both are now criminals. Pip steals from his elder sister and Magwitch has escaped from prison. It seems that they have something in common. When Pip gives Magwitch the food and a file, Pip begins to use more directive language towards Magwitch. This is contrast from the first chapter where he was in too much of in shock and fear. Words like “you” and “I” are used in their second meeting. Pip says “I am glad you enjoy it” as Magwitch gobbles his food.
When Pip returns to the churchyard, he finds a man who is badly bruised and is wearing a “broad-brimmed hat.” Pip thinks that it is Magwitch but instead it is another escaped convict. Pip walks past the convict without the story giving any other hint on whom this man is. This is effective as the audience are given little clue on who this man is which hints that this man has got something to do with the story.
When Mr Pumblechook explains that Miss Havisham wants Pip to come and play for Estella, Mrs Joe is ecstatic. Without hesitation, she orders Pip to enter the “Satis House” to play with Estella.
When Mr Pumblechook arrive at the Satis House, they are greeted by a “young lady” approaches the gate. The “young lady” who was “very pretty” is introduced to Pip and Mr Pumblechook in which she pays little attention. She rather insults Mr Pumblechook as she literally shuts the gate before him. This shows that this “proud” lady acts like she is Miss Havisham herself. This is shown when she discomforts Mr Pumblechook by telling him that “but you see she don’t”.
The self-centred girl then insults Pip by repeatedly calling Pip a “boy”. This word is usually associated with a servant and shows she is patronising him. It seems like she has no respect for Pip which is unusual as she doesn’t know him yet.
Estella mocks Pip yet Pip still likes Estella as he describes her as a “star”.
We are then introduced to Miss Havisham who calls Pip to come “nearer” in a peculiar manner. As Pip moves towards Miss Havisham and is “trying to avoid her eyes”, he glances to the surroundings. He sees that Miss Havisham’s “watch had stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had stopped at twenty minutes to nine”. This shows that there is some past history about the time which we, as readers are unaware about. This build up of tension is strong which causes the reader to continue reading ahead.
The room that Pip enters has no sunlight inside. The objects that lie in the room are “decayed yellow and have lost their lustre”. We as readers start to feel that the objects in the room with no sunlight have been lying here for a long time. By this happening over time, it feels like Miss Havisham herself is an object which has faded.
Miss Havisham stares continuously at the mirror. She appears deeply in thought of where her life went all wrong. Mirrors only show the truth, never lies and this is the situation here. It feels like the mirror is reflecting and portraying her life before her very own eyes.
Miss Havisham is dressed in a “bridal” dress with “bridal flowers” through her hair. Dickens creates her to be felt sorry for considering her condition in the Satis House. So we are now notified that she is wearing a wedding dress which has now lost its colours. This makes the reader think that she must have been wearing it for a long time. We are still unaware of what has happened to Miss Havisham and her marriage.
After several times of asking, Pip is face to face with Miss Havisham which Pip feels uncomfortable about. Miss Havisham then assures him by stating “You are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born”. This shows that she is trying to frighten Pip because she is unusual. This begins to create a picture in the readers’ mind about Miss Havisham and her past history. Firstly, we are told about the clocks and now the fact that she has not seen the sun for about a decade.
Dickens portrays Miss Havisham as a weird woman which makes Pip agree. He states that she is the “strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see. Miss Havisham also uses the word “broke”. This is a strong word which shows that there is emotional hurt within Miss Havisham in which she revels in. It suggests that she is hurt a long time ago, however she cannot let go the pain she experienced. She is like growing on the pain and wants everyone else to feel it. This shows that she wants to tell Pip about the pain, but not just yet without having fun and giving the “weird smile”.
Miss Havisham is a rich woman who lives in a huge house. However, on the other hand, Pip is an ordinary “labouring boy” who has to respect her. This is due to the thoughts in the society before the pre 1914. However, when Miss Havisham, in an eccentric manner asks Pip to “play,play,play”, Pip refuses in the “fear of my sister”. Miss Havisham then feels that Pip is challenging her which she can’t believe and take. She is shocked that he refuses her order and assumes that she has authority over him. With Pip refusing to play, she asks him if he is “sullen and obstinate?” At this point Pip begins to feel that Miss Havisham is unhappy with him and he knows that he must obey her orders to prevent clashing with Mrs Joe’s verbal abuse.
When Pip pleads to Miss Havisham to not explain his behaviour in not playing to Mrs Joe, he describes his opinion about the Satis house. He says “it’s so new here, and so strange, and so fine – and melancholy” which shows that he needs some time to adjust to the surrounding of this great house. However, Miss Havisham on the other hand replies “so new to him, so old to me; so strange to him, so familiar to me; so melancholy to both of us”. This shows that she has known the place for a long time. She describes the atmosphere and surrounds as “melancholy” which suggests depressing. She is now clearly portrayed as eccentric and depressed which leaves the reader eager to find out why?
Also the recurring use of the word “so” is effective as it emphasises the loneliness which Miss Havisham experiences. This proves that she is an insane lady which frightens Pip.
Before Pip plays cards with Estella, Miss Havisham whispers “you can break his heart” to Estella which shows that she is using she to take revenge on all males and her marriage was cancelled. So, when Pip and Estella plays cards, Estella begins firing insults to Pip by stating “what coarse hands he has”. Joe is a blacksmith and sometimes Pip helps Joe with his work. Pip begins to get paranoid about his hands because he likes Estella and actually he wants to impress her. Estella also says “what thick boots” which begins to humiliate and embarrass Pip.
The word “Stella” means a star in which Estella is opposite to. This shows that Miss Havisham has influences her in taking revenge with every males. They both together form a team in where there use Pip to “play”. People “play” to have fun with an object like a toy. This shows that Miss Estella tries her best to make Pip cry and this pays off when Pip cries in the garden against the wall.
Deliberately Miss Havisham asks Pip’s feeling about Estella. Miss Havisham knows the answer but she wants to hear it from Pip himself. The three words in which Pip describes Estella are “proud”, “insulting” and “pretty”. We all acknowledge that Dickens is a master in creating characters, setting and describing atmosphere. However, till date, we are unaware is he purposely meant to spell PIP with the words “proud”, “insulting” and “pretty”.
Pip wishes to go home but Miss Havisham is stubborn and demands Pip and Estella to play cards again. She says “and never see her again, though she is so pretty”. This shows that Miss Havisham uses Estella’s innocent and beautiful appearance as a weapon against all men. The prettiness of Estella is like a rat trap in where all men are attracted but when they are caught, Estella mocks them. At this moment, Pip is feeling down and humiliated and wants to be alone.
Miss Havisham is created as a mother-figure to Pip but she is a cruel and a mean woman. This could be taken in account that Dickens also disliked his mother for being cruel and abusive. So there could be a connection in the creation of Miss Havisham with Dickens’ mother.
After Pip finishes the game with Estella, he is told to revisit in six days. Despite the orders of revisiting from Miss Havisham, she is terribly confused of what day it is. “I know nothing of days of the week; I know nothing of weeks of the year”.
When Pip is told to follow Estella down to the courtyard, he begins to look at his hands and his boots. “I took the opportunity of being alone in the court-yard, to look at my coarse hands and my common boots”. It feels like Pip has caught a virus which is troubling him. Pip had never thought of his “coarse hands” and “common labouring boots” but now he feels like Joe is to blame. He begins to tell himself to ask “Joe why he had ever taught me to call those picture-cards, Jacks, which ought to be called knaves”. It is clear that Estella’s comments about him have affected him.
Estella gives Pip “some bread and meat and a little mug of beer” and placed it on the floor “without looking”. Pip thinks that he is being treated as a “dog in disgrace” which causes Pip to be “humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry and sorry”. This causes Pip to finally cry to the “quick delight” of Estella. This was Estella’s motive and it had worked on Pip who left feeling bitter as he “kicked the walls”.
Pip’s involvement with people in the higher society is a bitter one. Pip feels embarrassed and humiliated. The relationship between Pip and Joe is a warm one. This is shown when Pip teaches Joe the alphabet beside the fireside, which corresponds to their warm relationship. However, after visiting the Satis House, Pip is angry in why Joe is not highly educated. He begins to feel ashamed of his upbringing. “I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have so too.”