Explore Dickens effective “language” to create “setting” and
“character” in the opening chapter of Great Expectations.
Dickens opens the theme of death early in the chapter. In the second
paragraph he mentions the tombstones of Pips parents,
“I gave Pirrip as my fathers family name on the authority of his
This informs us that Pip experienced death at an early age. He goes on
to describe the churchyard and the land around continuing the themes
of death, and general negativity.
Pip says that,
“My most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems
to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening.”
The word vivid is used to create the impression that this afternoon
sticks out clearly in his memory and that its in contrast to other
things that have been forgotten and are less clear in his mind. His
use of the phrase “impression of” and the word memorable also show
that it has been impressed into in his memory - clearly something
important happened. The afternoon is described as raw this suggests
cold, wind, winter, bleak sore and no sun.
The place Pip is in is a churchyard and Dickens goes on to describe it
as bleak and overgrown with nettles. He uses negative language to
create a setting of bleak and colourless place as nettles are seen as
negative objects. The theme of death arises again at the end of that
sentence as it finishes with the words “dead and buried”.
Dickens then continues to describe the marshland outside the
churchyard as dark and flat implying that it is featureless – no
landmarks, bringing back the themes of colourless and negativity. He
also utilises the classic sentence formation ...
... middle of paper ...
...me down, and going back to hook
himself up again.”
This is effective as Pip mixes up the images of the pirate and the
convict in his head, and Dickens also uses personification:
“as I saw the cattle lifting their heads to gaze after him, I wondered
if they thought so too.”
Dickens effectively uses the language to show us the idea of the
convict and the pirate coming to life mixed up together terrifies Pip
“But, now I was frightened again and ran home without stopping.”
This chapter effectively sets up the events to come by introducing a
sense of the colourless and bleak world that Pip inhabits and which is
built on in the rest of the book. It also introduces us to the
writer’s skill with language when he describes the place and
characters, showing his skill at detailed descriptions and
demonstrating how effectively he uses the language.
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