The Great Gatsby, Life of Pi and Great Expectations: The Opening Chapters The opening chapters of each of these three books are both similar and different in many ways, and succeed to keep the reader interested enough to carry on their journey with Pip, Nick or Pi. The way characterisation is put forward in these three novels is rather similar, in the fact that all three are written in the first person, giving the impression that the character in question is telling their story directly to you, the reader.
Similarly, all three characters open with a description of themselves and their lives; Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby stating facts of his childhood and education before going on to talk about his work and living arrangements; Pi immediately letting on about the accident and gives a detailed description of himself, his education and interests; and finally Pip in Great Expectations, gives a brief description of his life and tragic loss of parentage. All of these descriptions intrigue the reader, and make them want to know more about the characters life, and such events so briefly described or let on.
The description of setting within the three novels differs slightly, due to both the circumstances of the characters and the time and place in which all three books are set. For example, The Great Gatsby, set in 1920’s America, uses a warm and delightful description of both outdoor and indoor settings. “Left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees” personifies the trees, showing that Nick misses these and that they made him feel comfortable and at home. “Great bursts of leaves” and “crimson room bloomed with light” both paint pictures within the readers mind and make is much easier to imagine the setting.
Within the first short chapter of Life of Pi, there is next to no description of setting. The comparison between India and Canada is a quick one, and even amongst this, the elements that make up these countries are described rather than the actual country or setting. The description of the graveyard and tombstones in Great Expectations creates and eerie feel, as well as creating a sense of empathy for Pip visiting his parent’s graves, however the setting description is cut short by the arrival of the strange, old man. All of these analyses differ greatly in detail and style.
Across the three novels, a variation of language techniques is used to establish the correct mood within the first chapter. The Great Gatsby is slow going to begin with, and the reader wonders where the chapter will lead. Gatsby’s name is mentioned several times within the first few pages, but nothing more is said of him until his name comes up in conversation with that of Miss Baker. This then sets a curious and intrigued mood, and makes the reader wonder who and what Gatsby has to do with Nick, and how the story will develop.
There are many sub-plots, such as Tom’s “woman in London”, that also create curiosity from the reader. At the very end of the chapter, the appearance and then sudden disappearance of Gatsby ends the chapter on a cliff-hanger, and therefore creates suspense and suspicion. Within Life of Pi, rhetorical questions are used to involve the reader and make them wonder what is coming next. I believe the mood within this first chapter is most awkward and strange, and feels almost as though the reader is intruding on a very personal story, or thought process.
The epigraph immediately creates a depressed and down-tone mood to the story; however it does increase the desire to know what DID happen to Pi to make him feel such a way. The description of the elderly man in Great Expectations, and that of Pip’s panic upon being startled by said man, creates a frightened and tense mood. The strange request made by the man creates, again as in both novels previous, a state of curiosity as to where the story is going to go. What does this man want with such things? Why is he acting in such a way?
The fact that Pip is visiting his parent’s graves is an example of emotive phrasing and language, and causes the reader to feel sorry for him, as with Pi’s incident and Nick’s uncomfortable experience with Tom, Daisy and Miss Baker. The language used in each of the novels differs, mainly because of the time in which they were all written. However the effect language has is an untimely thing. Words used in the opening lines of The Great Gatsby such as “vulnerable” and “unjust” create powerful images in the readers mind. The repetition of Gatsby’s name shows that he will play an important part within the book.
Repetition has a high impact, and is often used to reiterate a point. The way Nick Carraway talks suggests that he is speaking as if to a friend or an acquaintance, and is simply recounting his tale. The language and phrasing is very reflective of that of the 1920’s. In the beginning of Life of Pi, Pi speaks in short, detached sentences, which immediately create a strong impact. His detailed descriptions of sloths give the impression that he is intelligent and reflect his extensive knowledge. Similes are used frequently.
For example, “muddled agnostics…reminded me of the three toed sloth; and the three toed sloth…reminded me of God. ” shows his evident thoughts of self-superiority to his colleagues and his obvious worship of God. He later goes on to liken his life to that of a form of European art. The language used in Great Expectations is very typical of the era within which Dickens wrote. Many pieces of language intrigue the reader. The threatening phrases used by the old man, and exaggerated words and phrases such as “tremendous” create emphasis and again, paint pictures for the reader in their mind.
As for hints regarding plot development, there are many that interest the reader just enough to keep reading within all three novels. As I have previously stated, the use of Gatsby’s name in The Great Gatsby highlights his importance, and hints to the reader that he will have a considerable involvement in the book, and makes them want to find out more about him. As for the cliff-hanger at the end of the chapter, this only increases the reader’s interest as to when Nick will talk to Gatsby, and discover the relationship between him and Miss Baker.
The fact that Miss Baker mentioned Gatsby is a fantastic example of foreshadowing within the first chapter, hinting at what is coming next. The author of Life of Pi has a similar approach to hints regarding plot development, in the fact that Pi’s incident is only mentioned and not explored in depth, leaving the reader wondering what exactly happened to Pi. Names of people and events are briefly mentioned, but never gone into detail, which again interests the reader and encourages them to read on and find out more about who these people are, why these events happened, and what effect they had on Pi’s recovery.
The situation with Great Expectations is the same. The reader wants to know who the mysterious man is, why he has asked Pip to fetch such things, and what will then happen with regards to their relationship, and whether Pip will stay as lonely as he is in the first chapter. All three first chapters contain the perfect amount of hints and foreshadowing to keep the reader interested, and curious enough to read on and find out what happens to each character post chapter one.