The Power of Sympathy in Great Expectations

The writer then shows how powerful Pip thinks Abel Magwitch is. "So that his eyes looked most powerfully down into mine, and mine looked most helplessly up into his." This creates sympathy for Pip because he is helpless and alone. Dickens then emphasizes how helpless Pip is. "After each question he tilted me over a little more, so as to give me a greater sense of helplessness and danger." This creates more sympathy for Pip. Abel Magwitch then threatens Pip to scare him and to make sure that he does what he asks.

"You bring me, tomorrow morning early, that file and them wittles. You bring the lot to me, at that old Battery over yonder. You do it, and you never dare to say a word or dare to make a sign concerning your having seen such a person as me, or any person sum ever, and you shall be let to live. You fail, or you go from my words in any particular, no matter how small it is, and your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate.

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" Dickens uses imagery here which creates a sense of fear for Pip, contributing to sympathy towards him. Abel Magwitch then talks about another character. "Now, I aint alone, as you might think I am. There's a young man hid with me, in comparison with which young man I am an angel." This frightens Pip even more as he is already terrified of Abel Magwitch, let alone another character.

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Here, the reader recognizes how grief-stricken Pip is.

In the second extract of Great Expectations that I am going to comment on, Pip visits a wealthy lady called Havisham. There is a young girl that Miss Havisham lives with called Estella. Miss Havisham has taken legal responsibility for Estella even though they are not related.

My feelings towards extract two are that Dickens creates sympathy for Pip by emphasizing social classes and that appearance matters a great deal in the novel. Dickens starts the second extract by setting the scene and comments on Miss Havisham. Dickens creates sympathy for Miss Havisham first when Pip and Miss Havisham are talking. Miss Havisham says, "You are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born?" This makes the reader sympathize with Miss Havisham because the sun is a wonderful thing that most people enjoy seeing. Miss Havisham then tells Estella to play a game of cards with Pip. Estella replies, "with this boy! Why, he is a common laboring boy!" This creates sympathy for Pip as it is an insult to him. Estella then remarks, "he calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy!" "And what coarse hands he has and what thick boots!" We then read that Pip "had never thought of been ashamed of his hands before." The reader sympathizes with Pip here as he is embarrassed about his hands. The language and dialogue in extract two are very important. Dickens creates the impression that Pip is like a slave (although he is not). The way that Miss Havisham speaks to Pip is very distinctive; she does not ask him to do things, she tells him what to do and when to do it. An example of this is on line 124, "when shall I have you here again. Let me think." She then thinks for a while and says, "come here again in six days. You hear?" This creates sympathy for Pip as he gets ordered what to do and has no choice in the matter. I have read two extracts of Great Expectations and commented on how Charles Dickens creates sympathy for his characters. Dickens is a talented author and uses many tools to create sympathy for his characters.

Charles Dickens was a prolific writer of the Victorian era, known for his social commentary and vivid characterizations. In "Great Expectations," Dickens explores themes of class, identity, and redemption through the story of Pip, a young orphan who dreams of becoming a gentleman. Through the character of Abel Magwitch, a convict who becomes Pip's benefactor, Dickens highlights the complexities of human nature and the power of forgiveness. Magwitch's threats towards Pip reveal the desperation and vulnerability of a man who has been hardened by a life of crime and poverty. Despite his menacing demeanor, Magwitch ultimately shows a sense of loyalty and gratitude towards Pip, challenging the reader's preconceived notions of good and evil.

In the second extract, Pip's interactions with Miss Havisham and Estella shed light on the societal expectations and prejudices that shape their relationships. Miss Havisham's eccentric behavior and obsession with her past reflect the destructive nature of holding onto bitterness and resentment. Estella, on the other hand, embodies the ideals of beauty and refinement that Pip aspires to but can never attain due to his humble origins. Through these characters, Dickens explores the ways in which social status and appearance can influence one's sense of self-worth and belonging.

Overall, "Great Expectations" is a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today. Dickens' masterful storytelling and keen insight into human nature make the novel a compelling exploration of the human experience. By creating sympathetic characters like Pip, Abel Magwitch, Miss Havisham, and Estella, Dickens invites readers to reflect on their own values and beliefs, challenging them to question the assumptions they hold about others. Through the power of empathy and understanding, Dickens reminds us of the importance of compassion and forgiveness in a world that is often marked by division and prejudice.


Updated: Feb 15, 2024
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The Power of Sympathy in Great Expectations. (2017, Oct 30). Retrieved from

The Power of Sympathy in Great Expectations essay
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