Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
In this essay, I am going to discuss the importance of the first two chapters of Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectation. The purpose of this essay is for us to understand the characters portrayed within the novel and the way of life during the Nineteenth Century with its harsh prison sentences and abuse to children as well as to understand Charles Dickens skill as a writer.
In the opening chapters, Charles Dickens draws the attention of the readers with the use of a very bleak setting. Dickens used the language to make the readers see an unappealing place by the use of unattractive words like dark flat wilderness, overgrown with nettles, late of this parish, etc. All of which are paradoxical to the novels title, which is Great Expectations, that may suggest a story of glory and success. The use of alliteration is present in the story, like low leaden line, to emphasize on such feelings as depression or loneliness through the setting and indirectly towards the main character, Pip. Harsh words like a small bundle of shivers which depicts an imagery of depression of a child weeping, in which Pip was presented by the writer. All of which engages the readers sympathy and renders their interest through the use of evoking images suggesting tragedy, both with the character and the setting.
As for narration, Dickens uses a retrospective technique as he conducts the story. At first, Dickens presented a little boy, alone in a swampy graveyard, shivering and weeping on the marshes of dark flat wilderness. This is an effective technique because this engages the readers attention, specifically sympathy, to the frightened little boy. The narration though is told in an adults point of view, namely the little boy, Pip, as an adult. This now make the whole experience less terrifying as a child can easily get scared more than an adult. This possibly can be regarded humourous as an adult realizing on how he fears on petty things as he was a kid was a ghastly irony for the readers to pick up. Another proof supporting this claim is how the story is filled with adults comments like as a child and such.
Following to the second chapter, Dickens somehow utilizes a kind of dark humour on his narration with the same idea of a boy alone and terrified in a graveyard; now terrorized more by a convict whom he meets later on, demanding for food and tools on an aggressive manner; as in putting Pip head over heels and threatening him with mere bluffs. To extend and broaden the boys terror even more, he goes home to meet up with another, even more, terrifying character which is her sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery.
Dickens presented Mrs. Joe Gargery as a terrifying yet ridiculous in the same time as she brought Pip up by hand. This is terrifying because this now makes the readers to presume that Pip grew up in an abusive manner, yet ridiculous because by hand may also refer to tender and loving care of a mother but obviously this one is actually cruelty. Another solid example of Dickens use of dark humour is with the character Mr. Joe Gargery, like Pip, he was also abused or they were both brought up by hand. Although it is not amusing to be in a place like Pip and Mr. Joe Gargery, we nevertheless laugh because of the irony present; both getting beaten up to do what they are told where men are supposedly the dominant ones in the household.
The character Mrs. Joe Gargery is presented by Dickens to be a dominant or threatening figure yet humorous in a way as she may even made Mr. Joe Gargery marry her by hand. Not only does Dickens present dark humour through the characters and their actions but also through the use of vocabulary like ram-paging which is likely amusing as the term ram refers to a male sheep whom, under threat, bents over and attacks the threat; it is funny in a way that it is presented as Mrs. Joe Gargerys action, bent over and charging Pip, which makes it sound silly without prior to her cause or makes her look like an out-of-control woman. There are other numerous references of dark humour like she sot down suggesting sitting down in a drunk or disorderly manner, tall and bony making her look weak yet obviously not, square impregnable bib as a bib she wears that makes her seem in charge as she proudly claims that she never removed it out of working for them, and the tickler which is the name of the cane she uses when punishing young little Pip and ironic because the word tickle is supposed to be a term for pleasure or relief while a cane as punishment is much more than a mere tickle; it will hurt.
Little Pips character shows guilt out of the fear presented in many ways, namely the hulks which is a ship that brings the people who do bad on a far away land and never to be seen again; to be thrown and live in exile. The fear which Dickens presented creates an idea of the penal reform or crime and punishment in the 19th Century, clearly trying to affect social change which mainly concerns on the unfair penal code, harshness of prison sentences and child abuse.
Even though of all the bad things happening, the readers would pick up something good on the title, Great Expectations, as it suggests that something great lies ahead and to support this claim is Pips gift of imagination, as shown in the first chapters, which may lead him to a better future. All the readers have to do is expect the best.