Essay on Fear and Tension in Great Expectations

Essay on Fear and Tension in Great Expectations

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How does Dickens create an atmosphere of fear and tension in the opening chapters of Great Expectations? Explain briefly how effectively these chapters prepare the reader for the revelations at the end of the second stage of Pip’s expectations and expose the frailty of Pip’s assumptions about the identity of his benefactor.

Charles Dickens successfully creates an atmosphere of fear and tension in the opening chapters by using characters to a remarkable effect, amplifying the differences between the two most important characters. Pip’s vulnerability is forced across to the reader, “Growing afraid of it all and starting to cry”, the present participle “growing” suggests that Pip is constantly becoming more afraid, it seems unbearable for him as well as the universal “all” further reinforcing the impression. By the time “he is starting to cry” it seems as though he has completely broken down. His vulnerability is further reinforced during their encounter when Pip answers “There, sir! “ I timidly explained”; it is clear that Pip is a polite character because he calls this man ‘sir’ despite the circumstances. Dickens exaggerates the fact that Pip explains this “timidly” as this means, shy, held back which shows he is hesitant on whether to point this place out.

Dickens presents fear and tension further by reinforcing the idea that the people who are close to him are actually so far away. The irony of his parent’s powerlessness to protect him when Pip is in danger despite being extremely close is a horrible reminder of Pip’s vulnerability and also enhances the reader’s feelings to empathise with Pip once again. Furthermore, using Pip as the narrator of this novel increases the fear and tension dramatically due to the novel bein...


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...sion that has been produced is crushed due to the realisation that Pip does not die and undermines what Dickens intends the reader to feel and spoils the reader’s predictions about Pip’s future after his encounters with Magwitch.

Dickens spectacularly captures a true sense of fear and tension in the opening chapters of Great Expectations which is then extended into chapter 39 where Pip’s real benefactor is revealed. Throughout the novel, Dickens has cruelly led the reader to believe that Miss Havisham is giving Pip the break of his life, however Pip’s real life changing revelation is revealed through the similarities in language, setting and character contrast between the opening chapters and chapter 39. Pip finally sees the truth about Magwitch as well as realising that during the past 17 years of his life he has gained nothing and he is back where he started.

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