Charles Dickens: Great Expectations Coursework
Writers in general shape or influence a reader’s response to their characters by using many clever techniques. The writer does this so he gets a certain response and opinion on each character. They can influence and shape the reader’s views by using techniques like rhetorical questions, alliteration, show and not tell, descriptive writing, choice of setting, the 5 senses, the characters physical and emotional state, and metaphors. It is important for some writers to do this as the reader gets a sense the character’s personality and what sort of role they play within the novel.
Great Expectation by Charles Dickens was first serialized in “All the year Round” from December 1860 to August 1861. My personal opinion on the Great Expectation overall is that is it based around status in the class system and love. Charles Dickens gives this impression that it is based on status in the class system as when Pip was made into a “gentleman” he thought it would bring happiness, love and respect but all it brought was loneliness, greed, and a broken heart. This displays and teaches the reader that being high class and having power does not necessarily bring happiness in your life.
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The novel had a lot of love related aspects also which plays a key part. For example Miss Havisham is stuck with a broken heart throughout the novel- “What do I touch? Your heart. BROKEN! ” Her heartache causes a lot of issues as it results to Estella carrying on the similar hatred for men. Estella’s upbringing destroyed Pip and her relationship- “bent and broken into a better shape”. They both lust and long for each other but they don’t seem to manage to have the strength to bring themselves together as one.
Pip’s infatuation with Estella drives him even more to become a ‘gentlemen’, desperate for her approval. He lavishes on riches he cannot afford and disowns his roots, all for Estella to love him back. The plot is divided into three phases of Pip’s life expectation. Phase one: Pip Pirrip, a young orphan, lives with his ill-tempered older sister by whom he was “raised by hand” and her husband, Joe Gargery. The whole ordeal starts off when Pip meets an escaped convict and brings him food to keep him alive. This convict is later caught again and sent away.
Pip is satisfied with his life and his friends until he is hired by a wealthy woman, Miss Havisham, as an occasional companion to her beautiful but arrogant adopted daughter, Estella “a clear voice demanded ‘what name? ‘”. From that time on, Pip aspires to leave behind his simple life and be a ‘gentleman’. After some years as companion to Miss Havisham and Estella, he spends more years as an apprentice to Joe, so that he may grow up to have a future working as a blacksmith.
His life is suddenly changed when he is visited by Mr. Jaggers, who informs Pip that he as been offered to become a gentleman on behalf of an anonymous benefactor- whom he assumes to be Miss Havisham. Phase two: Pip travelled to London to learn how to become a gentleman. He now is supported by a generous allowance. He learns how to fit in, and experiences not only friendship but rivalry as he finds himself in the same circles as Estella. Pip is introduced to his anonymous benefactor, Magwitch, the escaped convict he helped. This again changes his life. Phase three: Pip’s life changes as all his money and upper class status is with-drawn and replaced with his past original working class life.
In the end Pip’s character improves and he and Estella meet in the grounds of Satis House. Both had been- “bent and broken into a better shape” by disappointment. They are then believed to leave together. The society Dickens is trying to represent is how class controls the norms and values in the Victorian era. Some might say he is supporting the typical stereotypes and the class system but others say he’s trying to challenge this. Dickens shows that even though you could be upper class is does not mean you are better then anyone who is working class.
I believe he was trying to challenge the system as Miss Havisham adopted a convict’s daughter (Estella) who was seen as one of the most powerful women, this was breaking the system. Also Pip came from a very poor working class background but he still managed to make it to the top. The society he is trying to represent is very male dominated. In this era women were supposed to do as they were told by the men, especially if she was married; she would have to do as her husband ordered and respect his wishes. When you did get married all your belonging would be transferred to the husband, your house, money and custody of the children.
If you weren’t married you were called a ‘spinster’, you were looked down on by everyone and was given no respect. The women and men would have not approved of Miss Havisham behaviour as she would not have been seen as a typical respected Victorian Lady. Miss Havisham is a rich old spinster who was jilted on her weeding day, and hasn’t moved since. She invites Pip to ‘play’ with her adopted daughter and from then on she plays a big part of Pip future. Miss Havisham plays a significant role in this novel as she is one of the main characters. Her character helps connected everything together so the novel has some continuity.
Without her Estella would not be the character she is, a cold hearted and arrogant Lady, and without Estella having that personality the whole novel would be seen differently. I believe she plays a big role in Pip future and love life also. Miss Havisham misleads Pip into thinking she was his mystery benefactor and also fools us, as we are made to think it was her act of her kindness. At the start she takes advantage of Pip naivety making him lust over Estella, knowing that she was going to break his heart as she has brought her up to revenge against all men. Without Miss Havisham the novel wouldn’t be what it is today.
The sense of mystery, revenge and heartbreak would be lost. Dickens uses a lot of techniques in how he shapes the readers’ first impression of Miss Havisham. He has used a narrative voice, detailed description and dialogue to achieve this. ‘Narrative voice’, this is when you see a story through someone else eyes. Dickens decided to use Pip as his narrative voice when he was a young boy. The significance of seeing the novel through a young boy’s eyes is that the reader feels like they are in a young boy’s body it’s self and as if they can actually feel his physical and emotional state as the story is told.
This is because a working class child would be more scared and wary going into Satis house as they would never had that type of experience before and wouldn’t know what to expect “I was not at all at my ease regarding the manner in which I should acquit myself under a lady’s roof”. From a view point of a young boy he does not question the situation Miss Havisham is in so it leaves the readers imagination to fix all the pieces together. He still respects her despite the strange predicament. Pip describes the scene with a sense of ore and bewilderment, glancing at every inch of the rooms. This makes the reader get a sense of Pip’s naivety.
Dickens uses lots of commas and full stops, this shows that Pip is feeling anxious. Pip explains what he sees with a wild childish imagination “Ghastly waxwork” and “skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress” this language makes the reader’s imagination be like a child. Personification is used when Pip describes Miss Havisham as the ‘ghastly waxworks’, Dickens creates an image of Miss Havisham looking like a skeleton waxwork doll- ‘waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me’ This language indicates Pip sees Miss Havisham as ghost like and is terrified by her appearance.
If Dickens chose to use a different narrative voice it could completely change the first impression of Miss Havisham. For instance, if Dickens had chosen to tell the story through the eyes of a more upper-class person, for example, Estella, we would have got a completely different view. An upper-class person would have more experience with that type of surroundings, so they would not be imitated and nervous. The reader would feel more aware of what was going to occurring. ‘Detailed description’, Dickens uses this technique to tell the reader more about Miss Havisham’s character.
When Pip entered the room he feels very unsure of what the rooms hold, he cannot make out what all the objects are-‘it was not in the first few moments that I saw these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments then might be supposed’ His first impression of Miss Havisham is that he thinks she is the most strangest lady he has ever seen-‘sat the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see’ this portrays Pips uneasiness of Miss Havisham, even before she has started talking. ‘The dialogue’, Dickens used the techniques of dialogue to show the characters feeling and thoughts through the words and language.
In the dialogue between Miss Havisham and Pip they discuss how Pip feels towards her. Dickens uses techniques within the dialogue to tell the reader how the character is feeling and their thoughts, he does this by using different sorts of punctuates, length of sentences and different words. By Dickens using punctuation like commas, dashes and question marks within Pips speech, shows how terrified and scared he is of the situation ‘Come-to play’, the dash indicates him pausing due to his nerves. The short sentence he uses implies how scared he is, that he might say something inappropriate or rude.
Pip is not at ease and is sure to stay polite ‘yes, ma’am’. Miss Havisham uses a lot of commands and repetition. Dickens does this to show her power and control over him ‘Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close’. Her commands show how powerful and cold hearted her personality is. When she orders him to look at her- ‘Look at me’ it makes Pip feel timid and petrified as a boy of his age would of never experienced a situation like this: Miss Havisham looking pale and skeleton like ‘ skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress’.
She asks him a question on whether Pip fears her ‘you are not afraid of women who have never seen the sun since you were born’ the way Miss Havisham words her sentence does not put Pip at ease and really terrifies him as he doesn’t want to offend her by replying with a response. Dickens uses a lot of repetition which is used very effectively. The repetition of the word ‘there- ‘there there! ‘ shows that Pip has no choice in what he wants to do as if she orders something Pip would have to do it.
‘ She repeats play three times to Pip- ‘play, play, play! this demonstrates her power and control in her voice, it shows eagerness and frustration as she wants him to ‘play’ straight away. She using a one word sentence- ‘Broke! ‘ to illustrate how distraught and bitter she felt over the event of her being jilted, by her loved one. This sentence is a power because she doesn’t explain what happened to her but she shows her emotions, this indicates that someone that she loved broke her heart. This type of conversation with a young boy doesn’t seem an appropriate topic to be discussed.
On their first encounter this conversation is very forward and would make Pip not at ease or welcome, as she is only interested in what happened to Compeyson and not paying attention to how Pip might be feeling. Miss Havisham shouldn’t be sharing these feelings to a young boy as he not grown up enough to understand or know about these situations. We get the sense that Pip is feeling very uncomfortable and frighten by the end of the dialogue as he doesn’t speak much. This certain dialogue prepares us for how their relationship develops throughout the novel.
Miss Havisham shows from the beginning that her actions are only to revenge against men ‘I want diversion, and have done with men and women. Play’ we know from this dialogue that she is only using Pip to satisfy her anger. Pip stays loyal to Miss Havisham until he realises that she destroyed his relationship with Estella. In conclusion I have looked at all the aspects of how ‘Dickens shapes the readers first impression of Miss Havisham’. I have looked into depth of the dialogue, analysing the punctuation, the structure, language techniques and how Dickens shows their feelings and thoughts through their words.
I have also explored the importance of the choice of the narrative voice and how seeing the language influences are impression. Furthermore I studied the detailed description of the surrounds of Pip and Miss Havisham, theses aspects had a big impact on Pips impression and feelings towards Miss Havisham. I believe Dickens presented her sympathetic and unsympathetic. At the beginning we don’t have much information for judge her so we feel sympathetic towards her as she has been left heartbroken, also she looks like a warm hearted women as she adopted Estella and brought her up.
I assumed at the start she was a kind woman as she was giving Pip extra money, which helped their family a lot due to their financial difficulties. Another reason for use to feel this way was that we believed that she was his mystery benefactor, which gave him a better life expectancy. However during the end of the novel I imagine our view changed, the readers’ felt unsympathetic towards her due to her selfish behave and destroying Estella’s life: as she learned to become cold hearted.
Her actions resulted in Pip and Estella to heartache over each other. A modern version of the novel would be completely different. The novel would have different morals and values, which Great Expectations is mostly about: The class system, Marriage and the rights of women make up what the novel content is. A modern interoperation would be more lenient on Pip and Estella getting marred as the class system in today’s society is not as strong as in Victorian era.
Also Miss Havisham being a ‘spinster’ would not be seen as sociably wrong as our morals and values have changed a lot over time. More people now can have children before marriage or even don’t see the need to get married at all. Plus now day’s middle class and working class don’t have many boundaries as then, people mix with other classes and don’t seem to think is socially wrong. Also Pip working his way up the class ladder is now easier compared to Victorian era due education is more accessible.