‘Great Expectations’ tells the tale of Pip- a young boy, an orphan who is vulnerable and attacked by his sister, and how his and Magwitch’s lives become entwined -, Magwitch, an escaped convict, is the opposite character to Pip and quite aggressive, who sees Pip as an easy target when he attacks him in a churchyard. The early chapters clearly highlight how different life in the 1800’s, for example children were expected to give all adults respect, as Pip shows when he calls Magwitch ‘Sir’.
Children were also punished very harshly as we see when Pip is caned for being late back home which is very different in comparison to today. As well as this, criminals and convicts were also treated differently as they would be on prison ships- known as ‘Hulks’ -or transportation to countries like Australia. There was a big difference between rich and poor, infact if you did not wear a top hat you were considered to be poor, as Pip notices with Magwitch when he says he was ‘a man with no hat’.
Even in the first few chapters if the book we see that Pip is shown as a sad, weak and lonely, which are also connotations of an orphan, which Pip is. The setting and use of pathetic fallacy ‘marsh country’ further gives the impression that Pip has had an unfortunate start in life and is surrounded by death, as Pip being an orphan he is visiting the graves of his parents and tries to imagine what they would look like, ‘he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair.’ this makes the reader feel sorry for Pip, because the only connection to his parents is through guess work by him.
In Pip’s home life we are made to feel pity for Pip as he is punished by his sister for the slightest thing that she doesn’t feel is appropriate, using Tickler -a cane used to hit Pip- and helpings of tar-water it creates sympathy towards Pip. Her husband, Mr Joe was no exception to these punishments, which shows that the environment in the household is not very welcoming either.
We can see in chapter 1 that Pip has no power during his meeting with Magwitch, as we see when Pip addresses Magwitch as ‘Sir’ as he talks down to him. The language that Pip uses, ‘Pray don’t do it, Sir’ suggests that Pip has a lack of power as he pleads in terror of Magwitch. The use of physical contact by Magwitch to assert his dominance also shows that Pip is weak, with a lack of power as he does not even attempt to run away or escape Magwitch’s grasp. Yet still Pip replies in a positive tone, ‘yes, Sir’, ‘There, Sir’, which shows that Pip has lass power than Magwitch, because of the terror filled way he acts during his meeting with him.
Magwitch is presented as a fearful character through his tone of voice, ‘a terrible voice’ which add to the overall fear that impacts Pip upon his arrival and lets him take control of the conversation. It is also through Dickens compares Magwitch to animalistic description, when he suddenly turn Pip upside down and empties his pockets, finding nothing but a loaf of bread, but still eats is ‘ravenously’. This sudden change in physical contact suggests these animal like traits in Magwitch. The language that Magwitch uses towards Pip also presents him as a fearful character, ‘Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!’ this use of exclamatives combined with threats creates quite a menacing atmosphere and makes Magwitch seem unpredictable.
However, there are also aspects of Magwitch that makes the audience pity him, in the description when Pip first sees him it states that he is, ‘A man without a hat’ , which at that time would say that you were poor, and that he had, ‘broken shoes’ as well as being, ‘A man who had been soaked in water and smothered in mud’ , ‘who limped and shivered’ which presents Magwitch as a very desperate, needy man, which is exactly why Dickens wants us to pity him.
The weather in chapter 1 creates a bleak and lonely atmosphere. Dickens uses pathetic fallacy to match the setting to Pip’s life, and presents Pip as being surrounded by death. When he says, ‘raw afternoon, towards the evening.’ This suggests the sky is dark and grey and not going to get any brighter as it continues into the evening. The landscape described, ‘marsh country’ also presents Pip’s surroundings as dull and unpleasant, which adds to the overall atmosphere.
The colours that are used suggest a sunset, but Dickens uses this to suggest two things: ‘horizontal line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black’ , this adds to the use of pathetic fallacy and to also show how bleak Pip’s life seems to be. The sunset in chapter 1 describes, ‘a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed.’ this is cleverly done by Dickens as it foreshows the anger and fury of Mrs. Joe waiting for Pip upon his arrival at his house.
I chapter 39 the quotes used by Dickens to described the weather, ‘so furious had been the gusts’ and ‘violent blasts of rain’ remind us of the weather in the marshes in chapter 1. Dickens cleverly uses the phrase, ‘like discharges of a cannon’ to describe the wind, which is a reminder of chapter 1 when Magwitch appears and how we learn that a cannon was fired if a convict escapes, this also foreshows the return of him further on in chapter 39 when he visits Pip. Dickens also uses these descriptive phrases for both chapters to again foreshadow the arrival of Magwitch.