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A Literary Analysis of Charles Dickens’ Novel Great Expectations

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In the novel Great Expectations, the author Charles Dickens uses the first person narrative throughout the novel. The first person narrative is the main character, Pip. However, in this book the first person narrative comes in a retrospective form, with Pip looking back on his life. The retrospective point of view is key in this story for the reaction of the readers to the plot. In Great Expectations, the retrospective first person point of view makes the main character Pip unreliable, makes the reader uninterested, and perhaps gives away certain key elements too early.

First, the first person-retrospect viewpoint makes the main character Pip unreliable.

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Because Pip is looking back on his life many years later, he cannot possible remember everything that happened. Therefore, a lot of details and direct quotes are completely made-up. Although the made-up details and quotes may capture the gist of what happened, they are not exact and may have been spiced up for the purpose of story telling.

Also, because some of the book is from a childhood point of view, Pip loses some credibility. Children often over elaborate and stretch the truth. For example, in the beginning in the church graveyard Pip makes the convict sound like an actual inhumane monster.

A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg…who limped and shivered, and glared, and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head…(2)

In his eyes, that is what he saw; however, truthfully the escapee may have been somewhat frightening, but not to the extent Pip claims. The reader see Pip as an unreliable source because there is no possible way to memorize the specific details he gives us and childish nature of over elaborating gives an air of no credulity.

Next, the reader becomes uninterested with the novel because of the retrospective first person narrative. The reader can determine from the retrospective point of view that Pip is still alive and well after many years of hardship. Because the reader knows none of the hardships Pip endures throughout the story will affect him in a life threatening way, we are inclined not to pay attention to detail. The suspense is almost completely lost from the novel. For example, the convict threatens Pip’s life in the beginning, but because we know Pip is alive later in life we do not feel suspense over whether or not Pip will live. This is one of the very few weak points of Dickens’ work(s). The retrospective point of view dulls the plot of the novel and makes it general and uninteresting.

Finally, the retrospective viewpoint sometimes gives away key aspects of the plot prematurely. Because Pip is reflecting on his life many years later and obviously knows what occurs next, he sometimes foreshadows too much. Occasionally, the reader would like to see spontaneity in the plot. For instance, Pip tells a story of Mrs. Joe drawing a hammer, when she could not speak following an attack, which signified the attacker was Orlick (113). This perhaps ruins the mystery of who attacked Mrs. Joe entirely too early, because we later find out Orlick was the assailant. The key mysteries of the plot are, on occasion, given away by too much foreshadowing, which is a direct result of the point of view.

In conclusion, the retrospective first person point of view makes the main character Pip unreliable, makes the reader uninterested, and perhaps gives away certain key elements prematurely. Charles Dickens uses the retrospective first person point of view with the main character Pip. Dickens most likely selected this point of view to have a way to connect the many mysteries of the plot together. As a reader, this particular point of view instilled a negative sentiment toward Pip as a character and perhaps displayed certain criticisms of Dickens. Moreover, all masterpieces have weakness, just not as many. Just like all works of art or write, Great Expectations will be criticized for particular aspects; however, Great Expectations remains a valuable and intriguing novel.

Cite this A Literary Analysis of Charles Dickens’ Novel Great Expectations

A Literary Analysis of Charles Dickens’ Novel Great Expectations. (2016, Nov 18). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/a-literary-analysis-of-charles-dickens-novel-great-expectations/

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