Dickens' Creation of Sympathy for His Characters in Great Expectations

Powerful Essays
Dickens' Creation of Sympathy for His Characters in Great Expectations

Charles Dickens was born on February 7th 1812, the son of John and

Elizabeth Dickens. John Dickens was a clerk in the naval pay office.

He had a poor head for finances and in 1824 found himself imprisoned

for debt. His wife and children (with the exception of Charles) were,

as was normal, imprisoned with him. Charles was put to work at

Warren's Blacking Factory, where conditions were terrible. When his

father was released he was twelve and already scarred psychologically

by the experience of the blacking factory. His father, however,

rescued him from that fate and in 1824 to 1827 he attended school in

London. His brief stay at the blacking factory haunted him all his

life, but the dark secret became a source of both creative energy and

of the preoccupation with alienation and struggle which emerge

throughout his work. Pip's desire to become a respectable gentleman

stems from Dickens' own experience, having come from humble


Dickens wrote 'Great Expectations' in 1860. The last half of the 19th

Century was characterised by increasing poverty and social problems,

especially in the cities and also by the beginnings of great movements

for social reform. There were two common ways to survive poverty:

crime or radicalism. Dickens used his novels to highlight the plight

of the poor. He was also active himself in campaigning against social

injustice and inequality. For example, in 1847 he helped Miss Burdett

Coutts to set up and later to run a 'Home for Homeless Women'.

Crime, guilt and punishment were common themes of Dickens' novels,

along with poverty ...

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...nstant which

shows Dickens' great skill as a writer. Throughout Dickens' novels his

careful choice of names indicates the characters well - Pip, a small

sweet name for a small sweet boy; Magwitch - is he a witch? Or evil?

In the first chapter he shows amazing descriptive skill, for example

when referring to the cold, wilderness of the marshes. In chapter

eight he manages to create huge sympathy for a character then take it

away a few lines later. This shows his careful control over the

reader's emotion. He also shows great skill when in chapter twenty

five he successfully achieves comedy while creating sympathy for a

character. By far Dickens' biggest achievement, which is sometimes

lost in more modern literature, is his talent for telling a gripping

and enthralling tale while highlighting the social issues of the day.
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