Great Expectations by Charles Dickens


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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

The aim of this piece of coursework is to examine different characters
of the Charles Dickens book 'Great Expectations' and how Dickens
manages to create sympathy for the particular characters I have
chosen. The characters that I have chosen to write about are Pip and
Miss Havisham. I will be analysing extracts one and two and using
these to prove certain points that I will be making.

'Great Expectations' is the story of Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, an
orphan raised by his brutal sister and her gentle-natured husband, Joe
Gargery. It follows the ups and downs of Pip's love life from when he
is a young, poor boy living near the Thames estuary to when he moves
to London, where he hopes to become a successful 'gentleman'. The
story takes place in the early nineteenth century England and begins
in a semi-rural setting. We first meet Pip as a very young,
impressionable boy, and in the first chapter, he is visiting the
graves of his family which he never knew. The film story starts off
with a dull grey background where Pip runs to the graveyard in order
to visit the graves of his family. This gives us a sense that Pip is
alone and scared. When he arrives at the scene of the grave-yard we
hear much creaking and blowing of wind, giving us a feeling that Pip
may not be alone. Pip talks of his parents as he reads the worn
gravestones. He draws up images of his family by looking at the
handwriting styles on each of his family's gravestones. This gives us
a feeling of guilt and sorrow as Pip is an orphan, which is also
related to other books by Dickens such as 'Oliver Twist'. Pip is
obviously very alone, apart from the fact that he is very close with
Joe Gargery. When an escaped prisoner threatens Pip into stealing food
from his home and giving it to him the next day, you feel sorry for
Pip as you can see that he is not very confident, and that he is

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frightened easily. This may be because of the fact that he is also
abused by his older sister who is married to Joe Gargery the
Blacksmith. The man who threatens Pip tells him that he also escaped
with a convict who is a murderer that will tear out his heart and
liver. We can see that there is no information given to us by Magwitch
the convict. On first impressions we think that Magwitch is an evil
character that will do anything to get out of his current situation,
but eventually we learn more about him as time moves on. The dialogue
used in this scene shows us that both characters are low-status
commoners. They use language which only they would understand such as
'gibbets' and 'wittles'. Both characters have totally different
attitudes toward each other. Pip feels great anxiety and fear towards
Magwitch, while Magwitch only wishes to have food and water. We can
see how Pip feels and thinks throughout this scene. This is a good
idea as the scene is more widely described than if it were to be of a
third person view. Both characters are not described in happier terms.
They seem very glum and upset by the way they are described. Pip is
wearing nothing but commoner's clothes, which do not support him very
well, leaving him open to all sorts of weather. Magwitch is a convict,
so he obviously would not be wearing any type of special clothing,
prisoner's clothes would merely be rags. This also builds sympathy for
Magwitch as he is a desperate convict.

In this extract, Pip understands that there are people who will look
down on him as a 'common labouring boy', if he remains a blacksmith's
apprentice.

Many people received no schooling at all at this time. As someone who
was being educated, Estella's reaction to him would have been the same
as many others of the middle and upper classes. The 'working classes'
were perceived as the lowest rungs of society, representing
unseemliness (disease was viewed with horror as medicine was still
primitive), as well as the threat of social unrest if they should come
together to form a 'mob'.

Furthermore, it was easy to slip down the runs of society. There was
still no welfare state and so if you had no money, your options were
often to turn to crime, to beg on the streets, to go to the poorhouse
or to end up in a debtor's prison.

Visiting the home of Miss Havisham is not so easy for Pip as she lives
in a very strange and eerie environment. Since her fiancé left her on
the day of her wedding, it has been an event which has haunted her
ever since. She lives in a very dreary mansion that is covered in cob
webs and looks as though it has not been lived in for hundreds of
years. Another reason why Pip's conscious of the way he acts in his
house is because of the fact that he has fallen in love with Estella,
whose presence in the mansion is not further explained. This makes him
further uncomfortable as she treats him like a lowly commoner with no
such importance to anyone but himself.

Miss Havisham's strange behaviour is due to the fact that her fiancé
has left her, so this leaves Pip in a strange situation as he should
be very weary in conversations that he places himself in. Also by
looking at the information she gives Estella we can see that she does
not like men, and that her sole purpose is to use Estella to break
men's hearts so that she can be avenged for.

Estella is a very strange character, we see Estella as being very posh
and high class by the way she looks down upon Pip and also by her
posture through the scene. When she speaks to Pip, she speaks to him
in a very violent manner as if she is being forced to talk to him.

We feel great sympathy for Miss Havisham as she is obviously an
elderly woman who is very lonely and is heartbroken. We also feel
sympathy for Pip as he is being held in an awkward situation which he
cannot easily get out of. He feels that he needs to prove himself a
gentleman to win Estella's heart, but he is unaware that this is
merely a plot set by Miss Havisham to have his heart broken as hers
was. All characters in this scene have different attitudes towards
each other, Miss Havisham and Estella are very secretive, and Estella
plays the part of Miss Havisham's apprentice; where as Pip is madly in
love with Estella so he will do anything to change her feelings
towards him.

By analysing these two extracts I can see that Dickens very
effectively creates sympathy for both Miss Havisham and Pip, but we
also feel sympathy for Magwitch the convict as we all see that he is a
very desperate old man who will use any technique to find his way out
of prison so that he will have no troubles left behind him. All
aspects of this story were used well; the way the scenery was used
gave us a glimpse of what the characters personalities may be like.
For example, when Pip runs to the graveyard by himself we can see that
he is a very lonely child who must depend upon himself to get things
done. He lives in a typical low class boy's life in the early
nineteenth century. Characters like Oliver Twist are also very similar
in a certain way in which they are abused by higher female classes
that are much older than they are.


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