Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

How does Charles Dickens use language to set the scene and introduce us to the characters and themes in the opening chapter? In chapter one Dickens draws you in and leaves you with a cliff hanger. The main points in chapter one is a young boy called Pip who is in a churchyard at his parent’s graves crying and shivering and conversation with a convict.

Dickens introduces us immediately to Pip who is the narrator of the story looking back on his own story as an adult you can tell this as Dickens introduces Pip, ‘’my father name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit then Pip’’ dickens uses complex language with ‘’my infant tongue’’ this shows how the older Pip is telling the story in past tense.

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Young Pip is staring at the gravestones of his parents he has never met them because they died soon after his birth and his five little brothers. Pip tells us at present that he lives with his sister ‘’Mrs Joe Gargery, who is married to a blacksmith’’. Paragraph three describes how the churchyard is next to marshes and sets the scene for something bad to happen. Dickens at the end of paragraph three introduces us to the convict and what he wants.

In the third paragraph, Charles Dickens uses powerful adjectives to describe the landscape in which Pip lives, ‘’and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes;’’ . Dickens gives you a sense of fear by using a metaphor to describe the sea as a ‘’distant savage lair’’ this is linked to the sense that the marsh is a savage place, which relates to the appearance of the convict as a fearful man to Pip as he will be introduced.

The words ‘’ours was a marsh country’’, makes the marshes seem mysterious. As Dickens goes on to tell us that Pip is in a churchyard and sets the scene for how the weather is using strong adjectives like ‘’raw,’’ ‘’bleak’’ and how the churchyard isn’t a place for a child to be has the churchyard appears by using ‘’overgrown’’, this helps for the introducing of the convict and makes you feel sympathy for the young boy who is alone.

As Dickens introduces the convict to Pip the dialogue shows a difference in both Pip and the convict ‘’who dye live with—supposing you’re kindly let to live, which I han’t made up my mind about’’ ,this shows poor education for the convict compared to how well spoken Pip is when he has answered, ‘’yes sir’’ he is very polite. Dickens also uses the colloquial language of what would be used in the time Dickens wrote Great Expectations for example, ‘’whittles’’ which means food this is used as an example of the age gap between pip and the convict because he asked pip if he knows what it is.

In the last paragraph dickens uses imagery to relate to how Pip is feeling and the impact the convict has had, by how the sea is coming in and how the sky is forming ‘’the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed’,’ this gives the image of danger and a warning that something bad is going to happen if Pip will go ahead and steal off his sister and brother in law that he lives with and commit a crime himself.

Dickens uses a variety of themes in chapter one to keep the reader interested you have the death of the mother, father and five brothers, crime and punishment, Pip’s child hood, differences between classes and child and adult’s isolation because Pip has no family just his sister and brother in law and the convict is isolated because he is relying on seven year old Pip and using threatening behaviour by saying he will kill Pip, to try and get what he wants ‘’keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat’’. Pip is frightened of the convict, but also feels sorry for him. ’I looked over my shoulder, and saw him going on again towards the river, still hugging himself in both arms’’, Pip feels sorry for the convict here and you get the sense that the convict is on his own too. From just reading chapter one you get a great description of the characters Pip is a young boy and orphan you feel sorry for pip because of the description Dickens gives of the young boy standing in the church yard, by Dickens using very descriptive metaphors ‘’and that small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry was Pip’’.

I get the feeling that the relationship he has with his sister is not a very close one because of how he refers to her ‘’and my sister—Mrs Joe Garegery’’. How Dickens writes Pip’s character it gives the expression that he is quite mature for his age due to the experiences he has had. From the description we get from the convict Pip has an encounter with we learn that he is a lower class man who is on the run and hurt, we get a detailed description from paragraph five ‘’ fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg’’.

This paragraph builds up the tension and uses verbs one after anot her ‘’; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled;’’, which makes him comes across as a fearful man and makes you want to read on because you get the feeling of fear and terror. We learn that the convict is desperate for food ‘’while he ate the bread ravenoualy’’ this indicates he couldn’t eat it quickly enough.

However at the end of chapter one we get the impression maybe that he is scared too from how the older Pip is looking back ‘’he hugged his shuddering body in both his arms – clasping himself, as if to hold himself together,’’ this shows that he is desperate. This first chapter leaves you on a cliff hanger and makes you want to read on. It gives you background information of Pip and sets a scene and builds tension and leaves you with a question will he or won’t he?

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