Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations is a novel about a seven-year-old orphan boy called
Pip who lives with his cruel sister and her good-natured husband, the
Blacksmith, Joe Gargery. Pip’s life is changed when Jaggers a London
lawyer tells him that a mysterious benefactor has provided money to
make him a gentleman with ‘great expectations’.

This novel was written in the Victorian times, around the 1850s. The
style of writing in this novel reflects the historical period that it
comes from because the novel has lots of long descriptive sentences.
In the 1800s they had ladies and gentlemen and also hanged people,
whereas today this no longer happens. The class system at this time
was taken very seriously and it was considered wrong to talk to
someone of a different class to you. A common profession in the 1800s
was a Blacksmith; today to be a Blacksmith is quite rare. In the 1800s
Blacksmiths were more essential to everyday life because the main mode
of transport was the horse.

The first paragraph of Great Expectations introduces us to Pip’s
family situation. “I called myself Pip”, this shows that Pip is an
orphan because he named himself. This also tells us that Pip has had
to be self-sufficient and do things for himself that would usually be
done for him as a child.

We learn that Pip is an orphan at the very beginning of the novel.
When Pip is at the graveyard he’s looking at his parents’ gravestone,
this appears to be the primary source of information Pip has about his
family. Throughout the rest of the novel Pip doesn’t appear to have
any other information about his family. On the gravestone is the name
of his father and mother and those of his siblings. “…infant children
of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried…”. This quote shows that
as well as Pip’s parents being dead there were also five of Pip’s
siblings. In the first chapter of the novel we also find out that Pip
lives with his sister and the Blacksmith, Joe Gargery.

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This also
indicates to us that Pip has no family. “I give Pirrip as my father’s
family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister- Mrs Joe
Gargery, who married the Blacksmith.”

You can tell Pip is very much on his own because at the beginning of
the novel Pip is alone in the graveyard. The graveyard is miles from
Pip’s house “a mile or more from the church” and surrounded with
marshland. Pip is only seven years old; the fact that he’s on his own
in the middle of a swamp indicates that maybe nobody cares what he’s
doing, and if they don’t care now then they’re going to care even less
when he is older. “…the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard…”.
This quote indicates how far the graveyard is from anywhere else. Pip
is on his own in more ways than one, he is not just alone in the
graveyard but he has no family. The gravestone Pip is looking at
indicates this because both his parents’ names are on it as well as
some of Pip’s brothers and sisters. This loneliness that Pip feels at
the beginning of the novel prepares us for Pip’s isolation later on.

The encounter that Pip has with Magwich near his parents’ grave
reflects later events in the novel. “A man started up from among the
graves” This event symbolises Magwich becoming a father figure to Pip
later on. It is imagery of Magwich rising from his father’s

The author of Great Expectations makes it clear that we see the events
with Magwich through the eyes of a seven year old boy because looking
at the situation through a seven year olds eyes makes Magwich seem a
lot more scary, it builds more tension and it has a bigger effect on
the reader. “A man who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled…”
This quote describes panic in a child. Writing through a young child’s
eyes is more exciting because children tend to see things one at a
time and in more detail also a child has less knowledge on some things
so their opinions are a bit naïve. Panic is also shown through
punctuation in the novel, there are very long descriptive sentences
but in short bursts. Punctuation gives the reader a breathless panicky
feeling because it causes breaths to be taken every few words.

Pip is a very impressionable young boy, we know this because he
imagines Miss Havisham being hung at the beginning of the novel.“…the
hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their
graves…” In chapter one Pip also sees the hands of dead people coming
out of their graves, this shows us that Pip has a very wild
imagination. This affects him later on in the novel because he
believes that Estella loves him. He also believes that his mysterious
benefactor is Miss Havisham, when again he was actually wrong. These
both lead to a lot of problems later on in the novel.

The imagery of the beacon and the gibbet can be seen to be
representative of Great Expectations because in the novel there are
lots of decisions made. At the beginning of the novel Pip was looking
from the edge of a river and what he could see was a beacon and a
gibbet. The beacon represents the good decisions and the gibbet
represents the bad decisions. “On the edge of the river I could
faintly make out the only two black things…” these two black things
were the beacon and the gibbet, this would symbolise to the reader
that Pip would have to make many decisions in the novel, some would be
good and some would be bad.

In the first chapter I think that Dickens prepares us well for later
events in Great Expectations. Lots of events later in the novel are
affected by the decisions made in the first chapter. Also there’s lots
of significance in the events of the first chapter that reflect later
events in the novel.
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