How does Dickens use language to introduce and develop characters and settings in chapter1?
Charles Dickens was a famous English novelist generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. He is much loved for his great contribution to classical English Literature. His epic stories, vivid characters and exhaustive depiction of contemporary life are unforgettable.
He was born in Portsmouth on February 7, 1812. The good fortune of being sent to school at the age of nine was short-lived because his father was imprisoned for bad debt. Dickens was sent to work in Warrens Blacking Factory where he earned six shillings a week pasting labels on the jars of thick polish. Charles Dickens stated the conditions he endured at the factory, were appalling and he often felt loneliness and despair.
After 3 years his father repaid his debt and Dickens was sent back to school. However the experience was never forgotten as he fictionalized aspects of the experience into Great Expectations.
‘Great Expectations’ was Charles Dickens’ second to last completed novel. It consists of 59 chapters and was published as a weekly series in 1860. The story follows a young orphan Pip, who discovers ‘Great Expectations’.
From chapter one, we learn the main themes in the novel are education, ambition, the class system, poverty and opportunity.
Dickens uses his own personal from both working class and ‘aristocracy’ to reflect on the character Pip and the novel; such as what constitutes a gentleman, how a boy form a working class environment and be ‘made’ into a gentleman and how intelligent Pip is able to be without any form of education in early life and still be successful.
I think Dickens’ novel is successful; as he is able to make his richer audience aware of the struggle to survive in a lower class environment.
I am going to focus my essay on chapter one. I believe chapter one is an exceedingly influential chapter as it is the first time we meet the main character Pip; it is also the first meeting between Pip and the convict and from the setting and characters we learn the lifestyles of lower-class Victorians.
Great Expectations is based on the character Pip, Properly known as Phillip Pirrip; after his late father. Pip is a young uneducated orphan who in the future is ‘made’ into a gentleman.
Throughout the story, Pip is the narrator. This allows the reader to identify the story through Pip’s eyes. The audience will find the child narration a problem because there is no correct punctuation or sentence structures: instead we access his thoughts and feelings. This challenges the reader as they are sympathetic towards Pip because of the way he expresses his emotions. They will also question whether they should take into consideration that Pip is only a child that hasn’t been educated.
When Pip is in the graveyard, Pip declares;
“I give Pirrip as my father’s family names, on the authority of his tomb stone and my sister – – Mrs Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for they were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.”
From this the readers discover Pip has no parents and is in fact an orphan. Also the readers learn Pip has no acknowledgement of his mothers or fathers appearance. Dickens’ language to display emotion allows the reader to sympathize with Pips character; as most readers are not able to identify with Pip’s situation.
“The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, ‘Also Georgiana Wife of the above’ I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly.”
Pip uses his imaginative young mind to construct images of his late mother and father. Pip summarises that his father was a square, stout, dark man with curly hair. And his mother was freckled and sickly. This shows the reader Pip has grown up quickly. As readers, we understand how Pip is mentally blocking himself out as a child and is thinking in a mature way.
Pip also has 5 deceased Siblings:
“To five little lozenges, earn 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 of mine – who gave up trying to get a living exceedingly early in that universal struggle – I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.”
The rate of child mortality was extremely high, so it was not uncommon that Pip’s siblings had all died. The audience would imagine that Pip was feeling alone as most of his family has died.
In the introductory paragraph, the name Pip is repeated a numerous of times.
“My father’s family name being Pirrip, [- -] my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and come to be called Pip.”
This notifies the audience Pip is a significant character. Also, the repetition indicates to the audience that Pip is the narrator.
Dickens has selected to call the main character Pip as it symbolizes Pip is a small seed that has the potential to develop into something remarkable; With the help of love and care. From this the audience assimilate Pip needs to be nurtured mentally and physically to help him achieve extraordinary accomplishments. I think Dickens’ style is effective as the readers are able to visualize Pips growing stages. The importance of the name also creates extra effects on the reader’s view of the character Pip.
After describing the landscape Pip begins to cry as he is overwhelmed with the setting (of being in the churchyard) and realizing he has lost the majority of his family. By talking about his deceased family and where he is located; it becomes overpowering for Pip as he registers he is still only an infant in an immense alarming world.
Pip reacts to the Convict in a petrified manor; when the Convict threatens to cut Pip’s throat.
“O! Don’t cut my throat sir [- -]. Pray don’t do it, sir.”
Pip is terrified as he witnesses the fearful man (whose image provokes the situation to become even worse). In an adults perspective they are in a position to sympathize with the Convict because of the technique Dickens uses to describe the Convicts appearance.
“A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered .”
From this quote, an image is created for the adult reader of a man who is struggling and in need of help. Pip’s description of the convict helps the reader to create a sympathetic view towards him, as the passage can be perceived in two different ways; Pip’s perception as a child, also the adult audience are able to use their intelligence to interpret their own view of the Convict.
Pip addresses the Convict in a polite manner, his tone is weak yet Pip is still able to speak correctly. An example of Pip’s style of vocabulary used towards the convict is;
“Tell me your name [- -] Give It Mouth”
“Pip, Pip, Sir.”
This informs the readers Pip is well spoken yet timid; the connection between Pip’s use of speech and the class system successfully works, making the novel more interesting. Also Pip’s intellect bemuses the readers as in the Victorian era it was uncommon for uneducated children to possess Pips intelligence.
At the end of the scene, Pip is afraid because of the threats carried out by the Convict.
“You bring me, to-morrow morning early, that file and them wittles [- -] Now, I ain’t alone, as you may think I am. There’s a young man hid with me, in comparison with which young man I am a Angel [- -] I am keeping a-keeping that young man from harming of you at the present moment, [- -] I find it very hard to hold that young man off of your inside. Now, what do you say? ”
The Convict notifies Pip there is also a young man hiding alongside him; he also explains in comparison with the young man he (the Convict) is an ‘Angel’. The Convict’s description of the young man frightens Pip. Pip informs us he is frightened by describing the landscape around him. This allows the readers to empathize with Pip because of his surroundings and his vulnerability; fearing what could occur.
Our initial judgments of the Convict are his sinister appearance and his immoral personality which is derived from Pips perspective. Pip provides us with an awareness of the Convict’s corrupt behaviour.
“The man, after looking at me for a moment, turned me upside down and emptied my pockets!”
This provokes the readers to believe Pip’s perception of the Convict. The technique of Dickens language encourages the readers to devise an image within their mind of the Convict’s actions towards Pip. From this the audience are provided with a deeper experience of what is happening to Pip.
`The Convict’s use of speech contrasts with Pip’s. The Convict is more informal compared to Pip, as Pip’s vocabulary is correct. The Convict’s dialect predictably made an impact on Charles Dickens’ audience as the convict’s language is lower class, informal and incorrect. Dickens’ audience probably found the convict’s style of language difficult to acknowledge.
The Convict uses techniques such as; bullying, threatening and instilling fear into Pip to threaten him (as you would a child).
“You bring ’em both to me [- -] or I’ll have your heart and liver out.”
This informs the audience, the Convict fathoms the psychology of child minds (as children are extremely vulnerable to stories), who also exaggerate their feelings and thoughts.
Our concluding impression of the Convict contradicts our initial one because Dickens use of creative language begins to soften the impression of the Convict by prompting the audience to formulate images of sympathy and empathy. Our final impression becomes neutral because the Convict threatened Pip and also displays unpleasant behaviour towards him.
“A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.”
However, the audience derive a feeling of pity from the Convict’s situation.
Chapter one is set on the Kent marshes, in the graveyard; where Pip’s deceased family is buried. The setting builds tension for the audience as Dickens’ creative language creates terrifying vibes from the description performed by Pip on the landscape; as he describes it as threatening and dangerous. This is a landscape Dickens’ reader and the modern day readers have little knowledge of. This build tension as the readers are not able to relate to Pip’s surroundings.
“The dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyards intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the rivers, and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea…”
This description would be interpreted as if the Kent marshes was empty, a lonely place where strange things might occur. Also, the Kent marshes were dark, dangerous, bleak and hostile. In my opinion, the landscape is not a familiar setting and the Kent marshes seem quite unpleasant.
Charles Dickens uses adjectives to make the place seem unappealing, for example; he describes what Pip can see such as; ‘black horizontal line’ and ‘long angry red lines’. The colours used by Dickens are negative, sinister and formulate strong unpleasant feelings. The adjective ‘black’ has been repeated by Dickens as it is a colour of death and will allow readers to create an image of dullness. Also it allows the audience to feel anxious.
The warning beacon and gobbets were described in the background of the graveyard. This informs the reader, the Victorian ere still used the death penalty and it was used a great amount. This symbolizes death and also danger, these both add extra tension for the readers as Pip is in this location. The audience realise that death has a strong impact on the story and are worried what might happen to Pip in the future.
I conclude chapter one has been very effective preparing the audience for what is to come. I believe this because chapter one has already allowed us as readers to summarize the characters futures and also form friendships or enmities with the present characters Pip and the Convict. The encounter with the Convict is useful as further on in the novel (chapter 39) Pip and the Convict reunite unexpectedly. Also it influences the readers to read more as we are eager to discover the upcoming events.
The modern reader’s reactions differ from the audience of 1860 on subjects such as; how Pip is able to speak proper without any form of education. In 1860 it was very rare that the lower class population were gifted enough to speak correctly without an education; which they couldn’t afford.
Pip’s deceased family also caused a problem for the modern reader. In the 21st century; life expectancy is at a high factor. However, in the Victorian period it was common for children to depart before they reached their first birthday. It was also an achievement to reach the age of 50!
In chapter one, I enjoyed the experience of learning Pip’s lifestyle, and the comparison of his environment to ours. The style in which Dickens has written kept me interested throughout novel as it allowed me to devise images; which allowed me to encounter the same experiences, feelings and emotions suffered by Pip.
I dislike the landscape and also the Convict as I find both of them intimidating. Also I find the landscape and Pips situation non relatable.
However, Great Expectations is intelligently written. This prompts the audience to read the story through Pip’s point of view. Without chapter 1, I believe the novel would not have been as effective and enjoyable to read.