Main characters in novel of charles dickens

Q. How does Dickens use language to set the scene and introduce us to the characters and themes in the opening chapter? Great Expectations was written in the Victorian era, a time of extreme poverty and deprivation, and where large families were crowded into small insanitary housing. This was the backdrop to the novel written by Charles Dickens who was born in 1812 and married with ten children. The novel was published in weekly form, with a cliff-hanger at the end of each instalment.

The opening chapter is scene is set in a church yard and Dickens uses dark, mysterious and intimidating language to set the scene and introduce us to the characters. In the opening chapter we are introduced to Pip who tells us that his father is dead along with his mother and that his sister is married to the blacksmith to whom he lives with. Pip has no memory of his parents and he can only imagine what they were like, as photographs did not exist.

Dickens makes an effort to create consideration for Pip in the opening scenes “To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine. This tells us that Pip is an orphan and that he is lonely. Dickens uses his descriptive skills in setting the scene of the churchyard where Pip is. Ours was marsh country,” “this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard “. Here Dickens is describing the churchyard as a dark place where nobody would want to live or be able to live and because of this it would be a lonely place much like Pip is a lonely person. In the opening chapter Pip shows his young naivety, “I looked all round for the horrible young man”, Pip believes the convict when he tells Pip there is someone else there even if this may not be true.

Pip, although young, tries to disguise his fear; this is Dickens showing the reader that even though Pip is young he has the qualities to be the protagonist of the story “Partly to keep myself from crying” Pip is afraid of the convict but will not show his fear. Pip is honest and remains honest even when confronted by the convict “Also Georgina. That’s my mother”, this shows Pip to be totally honest even in the presence of potential danger because he could have lied and said his mother was not far away.

The second main character of the chapter is an escaped convict, Dickens use his descriptive skills in describing this character “a square still dark man with curly black hair “, this short sharp description instantly conjures up a picture in the readers mind. Although the character is given no name by Dickens, the reader is led to believe that the character is possibly an escaped convict “A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg”. Dickens uses harsh language in describing the convict “stung by briars” and “torn by nettles”.

This gives the reader a fearful impression of the convict and makes them worry for Pip. The reader’s first impression of the convict is that he is a fearsome person to be afraid of” keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat”, this makes the reader fearful for Pip. However, we are then shown that he is not as fearful as first thought “he started, made a short run, and stopped and looked over his shoulder”. This is where the convict asks Pip to point towards where his mother is and Pip points towards the tombstone.

Here the convict shows that he is not as scary as first thought. Although the convict may not be as threatening to the reader now, he is still threatening to Pip and Dickens encourages the reader to read on and buy the next chapter to find out what will happen to Pip if he disobeys the convict. The convict also shows his opportunistic nature when he realises Pips guardian is a blacksmith since he wishes to remove his leg irons. The scene in the opening chapter is set perfectly by Dickens and relates well to the characters.

The book is set in the nineteenth century and this is shown with some of the language that is used “ and my sister – Mrs Joe Gargery” and “ Ours was the marsh country” these phrases are not generally uses nowadays and women are generally referred to by using their own first name not their husbands. The scenes and settings are like characters themselves and can be linked to the characters. As I previously mentioned “Ours was marsh country,” “this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard “, this area which is isolated is like Pip, as he is isolated and has no real friends or family in his life.

The same can be said in relation to the convict as we believe he has just escaped from prison and has no one to turn to. He must resort to threatening an infant to get what he wants. He is isolated and alone just like Pip. We can also see links in the setting and the convict “ this bleak place overgrown with nettles”, the churchyard is a scary place to be and the convict also gives the impression that he is scary and fearsome” A fearful man”. This shows Dickens sets the scene describing the churchyard as a dark mysterious place like the convict but within the courtyard are graves of honest people much like Pips character.

The mood and theme in the opening chapter is dark, grim and mysterious. The darkness can be seen in the description of the marshes gives the reader the grim impression of the scene. The mystery comes from the threats the convict makes to Pip and if he will do what the convict tells him to do “Say Lord strike you dead if you don’t”. From the moment the convict comes into the chapter the tension is raised as you are fearful for Pip” Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat”. However, at the very start of the chapter the language used is to create sympathy and consideration for Pip “As I never saw my father or my mother”.

At the end of the chapter there is relief that Pip is ok but anticipation to see whether Pip will do as the convict asks and what will the consequences be. The theme of the opening chapter is to make the reader aware of who Pip is and how he became to be the man he was when reading the story, this can be seen as Pip is the narrator of the chapter “My father’s name being Pirrip”. To conclude chapter 1 sets the scene brilliantly, Dickens paints a picture using clever descriptive language which conjures up a scene of desolate isolation, and tension into which the vulnerable Pip appears only to be confronted by the fearsome escaped convict.

The descriptive devices used Dickens creates atmosphere and tension, and builds the image of the scene in the readers mind. The chapter has a cliff-hanger at the end to generate public enthusiasm to read the next chapter. Each chapter was sold separately on a weekly format, and because of this Dickens in the first chapter had to set the scene up perfectly to entice readers to buy the next chapter. Also, Dickens has to introduce characters that readers would be able to relate to and like to read about. Dickens does these both to great effects.

The two main characters are not similar but do have things in common, they are both alone and both fearful. Pip is fearful of the escaped convict and the convict is fearful of the outside world. Both are not similar in the sense that Pip is a young vulnerable infant and the escaped convict is a dark and threatening man. Dickens introduces the scene and characters perfectly using dark, clever and contemporary language which readers could relate to at that time, supplying a cliff-hanger at the end of the chapter to make the readers want to but the next chapter to find out what happens to the young protagonist.

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