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Comparison of “Great Expectations” Chapters

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    Compare Chapter 1 of ‘Great Expectations’ in which Pip first meets the convict with Chapter 39 when the convict returns. The first thing that could be noted when comparing these two chapters is the length of each. Though this could be passed over, I think is shows how a small a difference the convict made to Pip in chapter 1 but the much bigger impact he made in chapter 39. From the second paragraph in chapter 1, Dickens tries to get the reader’s sympathy to be directed towards Pip.

    He begins with the fact that he was an orphan so young he “never saw any likeness of either of them” then fades into the fact he “derived from the tombstones” what his parents looked like. I think within the feeling of sympathy, readers are able to relate to the character you feel it towards and makes them more likeable as a result. The next thing you note about the chapter is the setting and the way Dickens uses pathetic fallacy in both chapters. In chapter 1 we are introduced to “the marsh country” and in chapter 39 we are in Pip’s house.

    Even the difference in Pip’s location shows the difference in Pip’s situation; in chapter 1 he was in a public place, something that can show lack of wealth, whereas in chapter 39 he was in a private residence, his own house. In both chapters, we begin with the fact that he is alone. In chapter 39 it is specifically noted and repeated twice : “I was alone, and had a dull sense of being alone. ” This in the literal sense is Dickens way of creating tension and building up to the moment when the convict reveals himself.

    I also think that in chapter 1 he is simply literally alone but by the time we reach chapter 39, he is alone figuratively as well. He has left his friends and family at the forge, abandoning them, thinking they were merely an embarrassment in his new life as a gentleman. In chapter 1 the convict’s entrance to the scene is sudden ideologue cutting through a block of descriptive text. He comes “from among the graves”, giving him an almost inhuman quality, as if he was demon rising from the fterlife and later on in the chapter, Pip’s promise, using the demon quality, seems like a deal with the devil. From the start, the convict is portrayed as this beast like man but in the paragraph following his entrance, Dickens tries to give him human qualities. “A man who had been soaked in water, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars. ” In this sentence you are influenced by Dickens to be sympathetic towards this man, some what preparing you for the later chapters where we are supposed to feel fondness towards the redeemed convict.

    However the entrance of the convict in chapter 39 is unexpected, it’s not sudden but more suspenseful, different to chapter 1. Again, there is that theme of a demonic and devil like entrance as Magwitch was “from the darkness beneath” on the stairs, almost like a demon crawling out of hell. The theme of redemption is heavy in chapter 39 considering at this point Pip has almost fallen from grace in our eyes due to his snobbish attitude and his actions towards Joe, his humble and well meaning ex-brother-in-law.

    It could be seen then that the fact Magwitch, a convict, helps Pip redeem himself through Pip’s selfless and helpful action towards the man. This would’ve appealed into the Victorian readers as they seemed to like the idea of this convict helping the gentleman, a man who is supposed to be caring and helpful, become a better person. The start of the book plays into the stereotypes and Victorian expectations that if you were lower class you were a criminal or had more reasons to become one. Dickens himself didn’t approve of this view, regularly stating his dislike of hangings.

    Hangings were a popular way of killing criminals, most of which were the poor. He stated that the barbarity of the spectators was disgusting and in this novel, it is reflected heavily I think on the way the different classes behaved and were expected to behave. In chapter 39 the dominant role changes and is manipulated, mainly by Magwitch. While many would say Pip has all the power in chapter 39, I think Magwitch relinquished that role willingly to Pip and he himself holds power over the young man.

    This is through the way Magwitch likes to tease and playingly taunt Pip, playing a guessing game as to how Pip’s situation came about and revealing his purpose for being there. “May I be so bold… as ask you how you have done well…” “Might a mere warmint ask what property? “Might a mere warmint ask whose proparty? ” “Could I make a guess, I wonder…” He knows that he has the power financially but wants and yearnes approval and acceptance from Pip. I think in a way this shows his fondness for the younger man and definitely shows the way he has redeemed himself since chapter 1.

    I also believe that Magwitch sees Pip as a replacement for the child he lost himself, seeing what he would hope his child to be in the young man. The differences between the two chapters boils down to the differences and role reversals within the main interacting characters. Since the beginning Dickens had set us up to eventually like Magwitch, making him seem animalistic and pitiful in the earlier chapters. He purposely chooses the roles to change to fill in the redemption and the theme of companionship, something that appealed to Dickens’ readers.

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