Having read Great Expectations how effective is the opening chapter? Discuss the methods Dickens used to ensure his readers continuing interest.
Great Expectations was written by Charles Dickens over a period of 59 weeks and published weekly in the newspaper All the year round in 1960-1, and later published as a complete novel in late 1961. Pip is about seven years old when the novel starts, and lives in the Marsh country, down by the river, within as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. (Kent) Dickens instantly catches the reader's attention and sympathy in the first few pages, introduces several major themes, creates a mood of mystery in a lonely setting, and gets the plot moving immediately. Throughout the novel you watch Pips life unfold and watch his transformation from a common labouring boy into a well-mannered highly respected Gentleman. He has only run into this life through an unknown benefactor, who he suspects to be Ms Havisham, a frail skeletal woman with nothing in her life but memories of her past and her adopted daughter Estella. But pip finds out that she is not his benefactor, it was the convict, Magwitch from the fist chapter who is only repaying the favour for when Pip helped him out on the marshes. The first chapter is mainly introducing the main character and narrator Pip. Telling you about his past, and makes us feel sad for him as he has no parents. This is one of the themes in this novel. The novel opens with Pip merely introducing himself to you personally, with his name and why he came to be called Pip. Pip is stood in a graveyard next to his parents tombstones and also his five brothers. He is then approached but Magwitch the Convict who scares Pip into getting him some Wittles and a file. The first chapter leaves the reader with so many unanswered questions, Who is this man?, How did his parents die? Making the reader want to read on a find out some answers. The first chapter is really the introduction to a small mystery to be solved, jumping straight into the action.
Chapter one starts off by introducing Pip, the main character. Dickens used words such as I to make the reader feel more involved and feel as if Pip is actually telling us his story and how his life was, I give Pirrip as my fathers family name, on the authority of his tombstone this is part of the first sentence from the second paragraph and it already leaves us with the question, How did is Dad die? it also makes the reader feel more involved as Pip is telling us personal information about his family and life. This paragraph leaves our mind puzzled and buzzing for answers. Another main character in the main plot is Magwitch, this mysterious, scary convict Pip encounters in the Graveyard whilst visiting the tombstones of his family. His first line is Hold your noise! meaning dont make a sound. keep still, you little devil, or Ill cut your throat! from this you can tell he is a bad person who has done something wrong, but later in the novel we find out the truth about him. This makes us feel even more scared for Pip. In the first chapter the convict comes along as a evil, horrible person who has failed at life and has escaped from somewhere, we can tell this because he has a great iron around his leg. We feel scared for Pip and want him to survive and be safe as he has already been though enough pain in his life. Chapter one creates a cliff-hanger, as the novel would have been published weekly Dickens readers must have been itching to buy next weeks issue and read on. Another tick on the checklist for a successful novel opening.
Dickens uses the setting and weather to show emotion and feeling within the characters. It is set in Victorian times so we think of old looking houses and a hierarchy of Rich and Poor, but this is not what Dickens wanted to do as he wrote it in this time, and is probably describing things he probably sees on a day to day basis. The first chapter is set in a graveyard, a weird place to start a novel but this intrigues us and makes us want to ready on why. We read on to find our young narrator has lost his Mother and Father leaving us with some questions, How did they die? Why did they die? but these are some of the questions that were for some reason not answered in the novel. Having it set in a graveyard also makes us feel scared for Pip wondering what would happen to him. When the convict arrives it makes us feel even more scared and sad for Pip, the problems are mounting up on him. He is a young boy, in a graveyard, standing next to his parents tombstones, the weather isnt all that good, and on top of all this, he is being thrown around and threatened by this horrible, dirty, terrifying man who has escaped from prison. As you imagine a graveyard you see a horrible old church, dead trees and the essence of death and fear around the whole place, how do you thing a poor young boy would feel in this position? The weather is not really on Pips side either, a dark, murky, overcast afternoon. The mood and feel of the novel would not be the same without the weather throughout the first chapter, it would seem a lot different if it was a sunny summers afternoon with no clouds in sight, it would completely change the mood. Dickens also uses pathetic fallacy in chapter 1 giving an inanimate object (in this case the sky) a human quality, such as emotion. and the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed. I think Dickens uses it to make us feel even more scared for Pip because everything, even the sky is going against him.
During the first chapter there is an essence of fear but also humour. Throughout the first chapter Pip is extremely scared, he is told the is a Young man waiting in the bushed having to be forced to tear his open. The thought of this happening is horrible. As for humour, Pip is tilted each time he is asked a question, more and more, further and further, you get me a file. He tilted me again. And you get me wittles. quickly summing up this bit, he demands that Pip bring him some wittles and a file. Then he shakes Pip a little, turns him upside down, tells him hell cut out his heart and liver if he doesnt obey, and disappears into the marshes. Because we are told that there is a young man waiting in the bushes creates a situation of tension making us think that he could jump out at any moment. If I was told there was a man waiting in the bushes who wanted to cut me up and such I would be very afraid and shaky, so seeing that Pip keeps his cool and doesnt freakout or fall to the floor in fear he just accepts to the convicts demands and runs home without stopping showing that throughout this ordeal he is actually scared and just wants to get home.
Dickens introduces some major themes into his novel within the first chapter, such as Gentlemen and Respectability, Parents and lack of, Crime and Punishment, and Power and Powerlessness.
Gentlemen and Respectability Although Pip was been approached by this complete stranger, who he knows noting about and is scared of, he still calls him Sir after every sentence showing respect. Although Pip is higher up in the social scale that the convict, convicts were seen as lower forms of life and as low as you could get. E.g "My sister, sir - Mrs. Joe Gargery - wife of Joe Gargery, the blacksmith, sir." "Goo-good night, sir," I faltered.
Parents and lack of Another main theme of the novel, this is one that Magwitch the convict and Pip both share. We find out that Pip has no parents within the first couple of minutes of reading, but to find out any information about Magwitch we have to read all the way to chapter 43 and read Magwitchs story, which is mainly his life. He tells us everything about himself and how he came into a life of crime and the true story behind Estella. After reading chapter 43 we realise that Magwitch is not so different from Pip and how not having a Mother or Father figure in your life can turn everything upside down and ruin you life forever. But when Magwitch realises that Pip also has no parents he doesnt want this sweet boy who helped him and gave him food in his time of need, fall into this life of crime and also ruin his life.
Crime and Punishment A theme that runs throughout the first chapter and Magwitchs story in chapter 43. In chapter 1 we see the differences between a convict and a common boy, Pip seems to have much more respect for his elders and other people that the convict has for him, he just threatens and shouts at him while Pip finishes every sentence with Sir. Pip also seems much more educated than him as he is far more well spoken and respects him. Whereas the convict says That young man has a secret way pecooliar to himself showing that crime has had an effect on his education, he was taught by strangers and never went to school.
Power and Powerlessness Another theme that is very relevant in the novel. In the Victorian times convicts were seen as the lowest of the low and allowed no say in anything. Magwitch is a convict and so nobody has any respect or cares about him. Whereas Pip turns out to be a highly respected Gentleman which is the complete opposite of Magwitch. Although Magwitch was a convict he earned some power back by becoming one of the best farmers in Australia and every penny went to Pip to secure his future.
Dickens use of a cliff-hanger at the end of the chapter does what its supposed to do, makes you want to read on. Like all cliff-hangers there is usually something that happens at the end of the chapter/book that excites, scares, or something that intrigues you to make you want to read on. In Dickens case the chapter finishes with But, now I was frightened again, and I ran home without stopping. Leaving us with lots of unanswered questions, thinking if there really was a Young Man and wondering if Pip would be alive and well the next day. Dickens wrote Great Expectations as a weekly instalment with a new chapter every week and so readers could write to him to tell him what they liked, dislikes and what they think could happen in the next chapter, so I think some of what happened in the following chapter was influenced by opinions and suggestions by readers, something writers of today do not do.
Back to the question - Having read Great Expectations how effective is the opening chapter? Discuss the methods Dickens used to ensure his readers continuing interest. I think Great Expectations is a perfect example of a successful well write novel opening. It jumps straight into the action, throwing lots of questions at the reader that they are intrigued about and want to read on to have their questions answered, and finishes off the chapter with a cliff hanger exciting the reader and making them want to turn the page and read through the next chapter. Where has this convict come from?, Is there really a young man with this convict?, Why/How/Where did his parents die?, If Pips parents are dead why is he not?, What did this man do to be arrested?, How did he escape?, Is the young man going to visit Pip in the night?, these are some of the questions that I was left with buzzing in my mind after reading this chapter, and Im sure that there are far more questions left unanswered to ensure the reader reads on. Overall the opening chapter of Great Expectations is a very successful well written piece that ensures that the reader would want to buy the next edition of All year round or flick over the page and read chapter 2.