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Great Expectations Essay, Research Paper

With close reference to two separate incidents in the novel show how Dickens brings alive the fear and uncertainties of childhood.

EPISODE 1 (P1-3)

“Ours was the marsh country…

…and if I han’t half a mind to’t!”

EPISODE 2 (P53 64)

“For such reasons I was very glad…

…I was in a low lived bad way.”

The start of the book is set in a churchyard by a marsh during the Nineteenth Century. The scene is an emotional experience for Pip as it is his first real memory of early adolescence. Throughout the book there are two Pips. One is the narrator and the other is he playing the role as the main character. Dickens uses this passage at the onset to illustrate the fear and uncertainty Pip feels. The passage highlights the way in which Pip is brought up and how it taints his perception of life. On a larger scale he uses it to address the trepidation children so often experienced in their lives back then. Dickens paints a dark picture of childhood, using the marshes as a symbol for the emotional half-light in which Pip grows up. A young Pip sees the world through the eyes of a veritable victim. He feels betrayed by his guardian, confused and uncertain about his future.

From the start of the first extract Pip portrays the marsh as an isolated and barren landscape. The word marsh brings up an image of a cold and lonely place, shrouded in mist. Pip describes the afternoon as a “memorable raw afternoon”. By using memorable to depict the day it shows that something important is about to happen. The word raw creates a sense of cold and bitter weather. He describes the place where he lives as “marsh country”. The word country gives a feeling of a large place, describing it as a marsh gives the place a more inhospitable feel to it. With the river “twenty miles of the sea”, it seems Pip is far away from any civilisation.

The place Pip is standing in is depicted as a “bleak place, overgrown with nettles”. The word bleak gives a meaning of a desolate and unwelcoming place. The churchyard overgrown with nettles shows that not many people visit the place. Pip is standing in a churchyard, to an eight year old boy on his own this place is going to bring alive his fears and inhibitions. When Pip starts reading the names of all his dead relatives it brings an impression of complete solitude for him. By listing all his dead relatives it brings up a fear and uncertainty that he might be next.

Pip uses the words “dark flat wilderness” to describe what lies beyond the churchyard. This gives a sense that something more sinister lies beyond the relative safety of the churchyard. The word wilderness conjures up an image of a barren piece of land starved of human influences. He describes where the wind is coming from as a “savage lair”. A lair can be linked with animals that would appear scary to Pip. The word savage increases the fear he is already feeling.

Pip portrays himself as a “bundle of shivers growing afraid”. It shows that Pip is terrified of this place. Further proof of this is when he begins to cry, “beginning to cry was Pip”.

Then a “fearful man” interrupts Pips thoughts. He describes the man’s voice as terrible. A picture is already growing in your mind of a horrifying person. Pip goes on to further describe the man in great detail. He still has a vivid recollection of the man to this day. The man “glared and growled” at Pip. The boy must now be thinking whether it is in fact this man that has come out of the “savage lair”. When the man grabs him he starts pleading for his life because he is that scared “I pleaded in terror”. On discovering the man, whose name is Magwitch, Pip is terrified by both his appearance and the threat of the young man who can get at a boy’s heart and liver.

When Magwitch asks his name Pip replies quietly “Give it mouth”. This shows he is afraid of the stranger. When the man asks Pip to point out his house he realizes no one is around to save him and escape is almost impossible. Once the man has emptied Pip’s pockets and started eating the bread he found in them, Pip is sat on a tombstone “trembling while he ate”. Pip is petrified of the man and uncertain of his next move.

The next episode is set in and around the house of Miss Havisham. In stark contrast to the churchyard the house is dark and enclosed. It is however isolated and rundown similarly to the churchyard. When Pip first arrives at Miss Havisham’s house he seems horrified of her. His fears follow him wherever he goes.

Before Pip goes to meet Miss Havisham he is very nervous. He cannot wait to meet her but is feeling uncertain about his first visit, he doesn’t know what to expect. Because he has not been brought up as a gentleman he is unsure how to act in the company of her.

“I was very glad when ten o’ clock came and we started for Miss Havisham’s; though I was not at all at my ease regarding the manner in which I should acquit myself under that lady’s roof.”

When Pip gets his first glimpse of Miss Havisham’s house there is a feeling of fear within him. This is evident in the way he “peeped” in through the gate. He is scared of being caught although he has a meeting with her. He describes the house as being “old brick, and dismal”. Pip finds the house gloomy and depressing because of its age and condition. The “great many iron bars” and “walled up windows” give the impression of a prison. The house is very different to out in the churchyard. Where before there was a mass of open space now Pip is finding himself imprisoned in the house. He is experiencing a completely new environment to what he is used to, a theme that runs through the book.

Pip is uncertain about his mentor Mr Pumblechook and is slightly afraid of him, “I was not free from apprehension that he would come back”. Pip is curious about the house he is going into “is that the name of the house, miss?” When Pip walks through the door, he again notices the prison like chains across the door “the great front entrance had two great chains across it”. Before Pip goes into the room to meet Miss Havisham he is very nervous “I was half afraid”. Dickens builds up the tension before Pip meets Miss Havisham by describing a long, dark and narrow corridor, lit only by a single candle.

When Pip opens the door he is met with a dark and gloomy looking room. When Pip gets his first look at Miss Havisham it is completely different to the room “No glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it … She was dressed in rich materials”. Miss Havisham is dressed in fine clothes whilst the room is very drab. When Pip sees the room and Miss Havisham it ill raise questions in Pip’s mind. With the room being so strange it adds an element of mystery to the novel.

On meeting Miss Havisham pip is frightened of this strange woman “afraid of a woman”. Pip likens her to a waxwork piece or a skeleton. “Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have eyes that followed me”. Pip is using the previous line to describe what, in his mind, is a frightful person. Dickens uses the word skeleton to exaggerate the scene. Pip is uncertain what to do when Miss Havisham asks him to play. The eeriness of Pip’s descriptions makes the reader shudder. They draw you in and evoke pathos for the poor child who must face these terrors alone.

Pip is asked to play cards with Estella but at first she refuses, using the excuse that he is common “a common labouring boy”. This shows the difference of classes between himself and Estella. With Estella pointing out all the mistakes Pip is making it makes him even more nervous and confused.

Estella adds a lot of uncertainty to Pip. Although it is obvious that Pip has feelings for her she does not feel the same way “beautiful and self possessed; and she was scornful of me”. This leaves Pip confused. He is left with a mixture of emotions “I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, sorry-I can not hit upon the right name”. After Pip meets Estella he becomes aware of the menial and degrading work he does as a blacksmith.

When Pip sees a figure in the window all his fears are brought to life. He reacts to this thing by at first fleeing with terror. However he takes control of his nerves and goes to confront the figure “I at first ran from it, and then ran towards it”.

Throughout the book Pip develops because of his emotions of fear and uncertainty. He conquers his fear of Miss Havisham and grows fond of her. The uncertainty of Magwitch is later revealed in the novel. By becoming a gentleman he wants to better himself and his family. It is not just the fear of the man in the churchyard and Miss Havisham that helps him develop. Pip also fears his sister who brought him up by hand.

Dickens considers the impressionability of children and highlights their suffering at the hands of ignorant parents. Pip’s violent upbringing makes him prone to fear and anxiety. His violent upbringing also encourages his imagination; you can see this by the vivid descriptions of Miss Havisham. Dickens uses haunting descriptions to show Pip’s vision of an English marsh and Miss Havisham’s house.

There is a feeling of pity for Pip, as he has to face all his terrors alone. The reader must ask the question why no one nurtured this boy or showed him any love. Joe takes the role of Pip’s friend rather than his father. Throughout the book Pip is left scarred, both mentally and physically, by careless people like Estella, his mum and Miss Havisham, who have no regards for the poor boy.


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