The novel ‘great expectations’, written by Charles Dickens, is a well known novel about class division, hierarchy and personal growth. It is one of the most prestigious novels of its era. The storyline to the book follows pip, the protagonist of the novel, as he enters the world of money, adulthood and power. In the first chapter pip, as narrator, introduces us briefly to his past and family.
He then swiftly moves on to begin the real story starting with him as a lonely, scared, nai??ve little boy, crying in the midst of the churchyard weeds.
Then enters Magwitch, he is dominant in this scene, fierce, knowledgeable of the real world and standing strong and untameable, leering over pip. He forces pip to relinquish information about the marshes, and fetch him a file and whittles to rid himself of his ‘great iron’ on his leg. This is the beginning of their relationship. Then in chapter thirty nine, pip and Magwitch meet again.
It is many years since pip has been the wimpy little boy, living sheltered in amongst the marshes; he is now a gentleman with an unknown benefactor and he now lives up among the other gentle of his same calibre. A stranger happens among his presence on a dark stormy night. He recognises the stranger but cannot place a name to the face. Then not after long, he recognises the stranger to be the convict from the marshes. With pip now enlightened by the identity of the stranger, Magwitch chooses now to tell him of his reasons for visiting.
He is pips benefactor, much to pips distress and horror.
He talks him of how he worked to make pip into the gentleman that he is, then with the revelation done and finished, they both retire for the night, pip in his room, Magwitch in the room of pips roommate who is away, locked and bolted by pip himself so as not to harm him during the course of the night in which pip fears. There are many similarities and differences between the two chapters, mainly the pip and Magwitches relationship and their feelings about one another, the weather and the way it builds the story and use of language to involve the reader, help them empathise with or develop a liking to the charters.
Chapter one is set in the vast emptiness of the Kent marshes. It’s a dark, windy and harsh place for a young boy like pip to be around. Dickens describes the marshes as a ‘dark, flat wilderness’. From this we could assume that he thinks the marshes are a place of misfortune and misery, where animals and people alike would reside together, knowing no boundaries like those of’ ‘civilised’ backgrounds. The reader could think misery and misfortune because the word dark can be linked with the likes of bad and sinister and bleak, it is a word that can imply all of the above and more.
Uncivilised, especially in comparison with those of non-marsh origins, may be thought to link with wilderness because wilderness is usually associated with animals and savages who know nothing but the instincts and urges they have and feel. The effect that dickens has on the reader by just using those simple few words, creates an atmosphere and mood of living with untamed creatures that thrive off a barren and dark land. In contrast, chapter thirty nine is set in the big city of London.
Pip now being a young gentleman at the tender age of twenty three, now lives up in the garden court. At the present moment within the book, the weather in London is atrocious; there is a persistent storm that is making everything gloomy and the clouds are covering the entire city, engulfing it completely. When describing London, dickens wrote, ‘stormy and wet, stormy and wet; and mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets’. By this sentence, the writer might have meant many things.
Firstly, the repetition is a famous technique and trait of his, he uses it to draw in and involve the reader, it is an effective feature of his writing and he may have put this in at this particular point in the story to try and drum in a sense of being there, trapped inside from the awful weather outside, just listening to the beat of the rain against the window, tap, tap, tapping away. This way the reader can get a good understanding and visualise how much of an aid that the rain was to pips mood and also to the mood of the scene.
Secondly, dickens might have put in the later part of the sentence, ‘… ud, deep in all the streets’ as a subtext to the happenings and plot of the book. At this stage of pips expectations, the book is rife with power hunger, ambition, desire for self-improvement and clashing of the class division. All the key themes though out the book. Dickens could have been referring not to the literal mud in the streets, but the dirty and filthy dealings and treatment between the people of the streets. The way they treat those below them on the social ladder and the way they mistreat each other in which to try and better themselves.
In the part of the novel pip is a sheltered, nai??ve and childish little boy who is scared of the escaped convict and yet still concerned for him. This is shown in the way that he puts his character over in the beginning of the book, the childish way he creates images of his dead family from their gravestones for instance, or the way he ‘earnestly expresses his hope that he wont’. This shows off his characteristically young mindset to the reader. Then when Magwitch comes in, he is a complete contrast to pips character. He is bold, superior, authoritative and tough. He makes a huge impact on pip, image and presence wise.
Dickens describes Magwitch with animal like qualities, using words like ‘growls’, this fits in with the image that the marshes contain all varieties of uncivilised people. In Pip and Magwitches relationship in the first chapter, is that Magwitch is the backbone and muscle of the relationship, yet very loyal and it is made clear he keeps his promises and takes them seriously. This is shown when he makes pip promise to bring him back the file and whittles and makes him say, ‘say lord strike you down if you don’t’, to seal the deal. This shows that he believes in people sticking to there word.
Pips part in the relationship, however, is that he is the sweet, nai??ve little boy that, although terribly scared of the convict, still holds empathy and remorse for him and his current situation. He is the one with a kind heart and an inanely good conscience. This is shown in the way that pip carries on watching Magwitch even after they part company, he watches his walk away and only turns around when he see that he is too turning around. Dickens may have put this in to show a special bond between the two characters, to add a certain feel to their relationship to help the reader connect the two in their minds better.
In the second part of the novel, both characters change completely and reverse roles too. Pip, now being an older man and a gentle man, who is now completely obsessed with the idea of being bettering his own self within the social world and also the idea that Miss Havisham is his benefactor. He lets his desire for advancement overshadow his basic goodness. This is shown by the harsh way in which he treats Magwitch upon his arrival. The now ex convict, Magwitch, is a wealthy man who prospered in life to earn the money to support a young man into being a gentleman.
He has softened over the years and the deep impact unto which pip had on him when only a young child, has revolved his life entirely over the past years. He made it his mission to anonymously support pip into being a gentleman. When Magwitch first gets there, pip treats him with disrespect and disdain, thinking it lowly to have to correspond with him. He makes a snobbish remark about not having a hat, and from those few words the reader can tell that this was not the same boy who would have welcomed the stranger, but a simple cog in the wheel of class and social standards doing what is appropriate in the thoughts of others.
Pip lets his strive to be a gentleman take over and in the meantime loses his real values and self standards. Pip and Magwitches roles in their relationship have changed, pip is now the dominant one of the relationship, or at least he thinks himself to be, and he is in a way, he holds power over Magwitch in the sense that he thinks of pip as a son and can change his emotional state easily because of the what the feelings, that thinking of him as a son, bring.
Pips adult, yet still childish mindset is now that of a spoilt child, one whom to which is accustom to having whatever he want, and like a child he comes across something he doesn’t like, he acts out. This is shown when he finds out that the convict from the marshes is his secret benefactor, and although he does not physically act out, the silence he gives Magwitch and the abrupt behaviour in which he still treats Magwitch with, the hatred he says he has for him and the disgust, are all typical of a child that is acting out.
This is another way in which their relationship and the characters themselves have changed dramatically. In great expectations there are many key themes, power, ambition, desire for self improvement, social status and class divisions, crime and punishment, growth, from childhood to adulthood, and many more. Each and every theme plays a part in the entire passage of the book. Their roles in the novel are very important to not only the plot, but to the characters and how they developed based around these themes.
Ambition and self improvement come in different forms. There is moral ambition; he strives to be a good person, cursing himself when he acts immorally, like when he treats Joe and Biddy appallingly when he leaves London. He is harsh on himself and a compelling guilt within goads him on to be a better person. There is social ambition; he then endeavours to be a gentle so as to win over Estelle. He desperately wants to move up in the social chain because he is in love with a higher class girl.
This fits in with the social standards and divisions happening at the time of dickens himself, we can only assume that he put in all this to try and reach out to the people at the centre of the hierarchies and social classes and attempt to make them see what they are missing out in their own desire for social achievement and ambition for class attainment. By the end of the novel though, the message of the book is made clear, it is not social and educational improvement that we should strive for in life, but to accomplish real worth in life from the likes of conscience and affection.
There are many similarities and differences in the two parts f the book, chapters one and thirty nine. There’s the innocence to pip in the beginning, the fondness from Magwitch in the second part, the bonds pip creates with different characters and how they change as he grows older and matures. There’s the manner in which the weather always seems to be dire when something arises in the plot pointing the direction of trouble and misfortune and the compelling way in which pip helps the convict both times they meet, showing his true goodness even through his new found ‘gentlemanly’ behaviour.
To summarise, great expectations is novel about a boy who goes through many changes in his life, who meets new people and who learns to grow up. It is a well know novel about class division, hierarchy and personal growth. It is a classic and will remain a classic because even now, we can appreciate and integrate the messages of great expectations into our own lives.
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