Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

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Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

Chapter one of the novel Great Expectations opens in a bleak and

overgrown churchyard on the eerie marsh country. Here we are

introduced to Pip, as a young and naïve boy, and we discover he is

also an orphan, who lives with sister and her husband the blacksmith,

in a small village a mile or more from the church.

Whilst Pip is in the churchyard, he meets an escaped convict,

Magwitch, whom Pip gives food to, and this encounter remains poignant

in both their lives, as Pip goes on to receive the opportunity to

become a gentleman, from a mysterious benefactor, and he abandons his

friends and family for his “Great Expectations” and his London


The desolate choice of setting and location for the start of the novel

are relevant to Pip’s unhappy childhood. Dickens uses negative

descriptions such as “bleak place overgrown with nettles” to create a

vivid and miserable image in the readers mind. At once it becomes

obvious that Pip’s tale is not going to be a joyful or pleasant one-

more the reverse, as his surroundings are described with more

depressing phrases including “dark flat wilderness”, to describe the

marshes and land beyond the churchyard, and “distant savage lair”, to

emphasise the fierceness of the sea. We get the impression of an

isolated, wild and barren marshland, and feel sorry for the poor young

boy let out with nobody with him.

We are told that Pip never saw his father or his mother, and told also

that he childishly derived what they may have looked like from the

appearance of their tombstones. Pip evidently felt alone and deserted

at this time, as we see him in the churchyard visiting his parent's

graves, and looking at the “five little stone...

... middle of paper ...

...gers that finish off each chapter.

The fact that Magwitch is introduced to Pip in the first chapter is

appealing for the reader, as this creates curiosity in wanting to know

what is going to happen to Pip, and what is to become of Magwitch. The

reader is persuaded to read on to find out also whether Pip obeys

Magwitch, and how Pip completes his task. Also, because we feel sorry

for the poor boy, we are curious to find out the outcome of his life

and whether it gets any better.

Overall, Chapter one of the novel Great Expectations provides us with

sufficient information about Pip to know that he is not going to grow

up in a loving and caring environment, as we find out that he is an

orphan, who lives with his sister and her husband, in a strict and

unloving household, and is let out alone in a deserted churchyard

visiting his parents graves one evening.
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