Great Expectations is an Autobiographical Novel written by Charles Dickens between 1860 and 1861 because it was written in instalments in magazines. Charles Dickens was a social reformer who wrote boos about the working class people and the daily struggles, to try to get people to understand how life was like for the working class.
The first chapter quickly introduces Pip and the fact that he is living with his sister and Joe Gargery, the local blacksmith as his parents are dead. It also introduces Magwitch, who takes advantage of Pips young and quite timid demeanour to get his own way.
Finally the first chapter introduces several key themes that are developed during the rest of the novel, such as the divide between rich and poor and people who are considered gentlemen and the lower classes, who in the majority of cases turned out to be more polite than the richer class people.
This chapter introduces Magwitch, an escaped convict, Joe Gargery, the local blacksmith, Pip the main character or protagonist, Pips sister, whom Pip lives with after the rest of his family died.
Initially out sympathies are with Pip, as he is a very young, very small boy in a graveyard, at night, where an escaped convict (Magwitch) is laying low. When suddenly the criminal appears and starts threatening Pip “Stay still you little devil or I’ll cut your throat” Dickens uses quit strong language in this sentence to grab the readers attention and the immediately place Magwitch in a powerful position. This makes the reader feel no sympathy for the convict, however at the end when the convict is running of Pip imagines that “the hands of the people in the graves were reaching up trying to pull him into the ground” this helps you imagine the look of Magwitch as a very malnourished, dirty, weak person, which is reinforced from the long sentence in Paragraph 4 ”A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg.
A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied around his head. 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” this has a lot of ands in it make it seem even longer, and this sentence also makes have some sympathy for the convict as he has already being through a lot and could almost be forgiven for picking on this young boy.
The weather in this chapter is described as dark, wet and windy and is describes as rushing “from a distant and savage lair” which make the reader imagine the weather as a ruthless monster. This description helps you feel more anxious for Pip as it seems that he is surrounded by the ruthless monster with is about to attack him, this also makes you fell sympathy for Pip. At the end of chapter the horizon is described as “a row of angry red and black lines intermixed” which could be considered as blood, which is appropriate as with the gibbert with pirate and the convict who is described as close the death and also could be a sign of impending disaster or doom.
In this chapter the mood is quite downbeat and miserable, using phrases like “the low leaden line” which make it seen heavy and dark, which can be associated with death, also with the colour of the skies and the gibbert. Also the convict is described almost as if he dead himself, when he walks away from Pip “the hands of the people in the graves were reaching up trying to pull him into the ground” which make you feel sympathy for the convict, which is helped by the strong and direct language “pull him in” which helps you feel sympathy for the convict as well.
This chapter introduces a number of themes that are developed through the novel, for example Gentlemen and respectability, which is shown with the contrasts between Pips family and Estella and Miss Havesham. Joe Gargery is a very nice polite, considerate person, and also Pip calling Magwitch “sir” even though Pip is threatened by him, so even though they were considered below most other people thanks to their lack of money, and compared to Bentley Drummel later in the novel-who steals Estella from Pip and beats her, so she goes back to Pip anyway-also Miss Havesham, and especially Estella are very cold hearted, unpleasant, evil characters but are considered superior to Pip and Joe because they are a lot richer, and so are a lot more “desirable” even though they are so unkind “well aren’t you going to cry boy” which also makes the reader feel very sorry for Pip and hatred towards Miss Havesham for bring up Estella to be so unpleasant, Also the language here is very direct, which reinforces what is being said.
Another theme that is used is Crime and Punishment, here all criminals were sent to “prison boats” and were tied up with “great irons” and had to wear “a coarse grey uniform” Dickens uses words like “great” to help you imagine the size and weight of it and how much it would slow them down, also words like “coarse grey” helps you imagine the uncomfortableness of the ‘vegetable sack’ fabric and the colours. Also the gibbert is shown, which would have being used for hangings and executions of criminals, and when coupled with the pirate and red and black skey makes you think of death and how badly the criminals were treated.
Something that Dickens uses throughout the novel is a dual narrative, which is where you get two narrators, in this case, one as Pip as a child “The letters on my fathers [gravestone] gave me an odd idea that he was a square stout dark man with curly black hair”, and one when he is an adult “who gave up trying to get a living exceedingly early in that universal struggle” the difference is that when Pip is younger his vocabulary id a lot simpler and his ideas are more unreasonable and childish, but when he his older the vocab id more complex, with longer words and more detailed sentences.
Dickens uses several cliffhangers throughout his novel, some of which are-when in the graveyard the convict demands whittles (files) and food, which already sets up the reader to wonder whether Pip will do as the convict says, and steal and the food from his poor family and also when we reach the end of the chapter it goes “but now I was frightened again and ran hime without stopping”, this is quite an open ended finish which lets you fill in until you buy the next instalment and find out, which you would because people are naturally curious and want to learn more.
Overall this is a very good opening chapter as it poses several questions for the reader-does he get the food, does he report the criminal, does he not do anything, is the convict caught again, and is this “young man” real which makes you want to read on and find out. Also some of the characters are described quite vaguely, but with enough detail to make it interesting, which makes the reader want to continue. Dickens also uses humour, like when the convict runs off when Pip tells him where his mother is by giving the reader some light relief, and those are my reasons why I think that the opening chapter of Great Expectations of very effective at drawing the reader in and making them interested in the rest of the novel.
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