Assignment: Charles Dickens uses a variety of techniques to keep his reader interested and entertained. Discuss this in relation to ‘Great Expectation’. We have been studying ‘Great Expectations’ for our pre 1914 prose, it is written by Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens uses an array of techniques to keep his readers interested, this includes an entertaining storyline, use of description, first person narrative, creating suspense, the presentation of social issues, characterisation and the themes to be a gentleman.
Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ storyline keeps the reader interested by providing an exuberating storyline. The brief outline of the story is Pip encounters a convict and is threatened for food and drink, he is later on invited by Miss Havisham to play with Estella at Satis House, further in the story he is informed by Mr Jaggers, he has a generous benefactor. Pip goes to London to become a gentleman, his love for Estella and misunderstanding of the truth leads to Magwich revealing himself as Pip’s benefactor. It is the storyline’s presentation which grasps the reader’s attention.
A technique used by Dickens to grab the reader’s imagination is through description. Through his use of description he is able to create an atmosphere or mood, and adds to the reader’s interest in the story, an example of this is “Joe was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue” he gives further detail to add to the reader’s interest.
Dickens through his description is able to give the reader a panoramic view, stretching from the marshes to the coast for example “Ours was the marsh country down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea”. Dickens language emphasises that where Pip lives is dark and wild. He describes a hostile world and in it he places a vulnerable boy. Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectation’ is rich in alliteration to achieve his purpose of keeping the reader’s interest. The alliteration of the consonant “L” gives an impression of what is being described an example “was the marshes; and that the low leaden line, was the river;”
Another means by which Dickens captures the reader’s interest is through the use of first person narrative. Pip is narrating the story, looking back at his life as a kid, this sets a personal tone with the reader an example is “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Phillip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.” This technique allows the reader to get emotionally attached to the story.
Dickens uses suspense, suspense is when the reader is presented with a situation that has mystery and about which the outcome is uncertain. Pip’s history comes back to haunt him ‘a feature in my low career that I had previously forgotten. I was haunted by the file too.’ This creates a sort of anxiety and mystery, using this technique the readers are kept in suspense. Dickens’ suspense technique enables the readers to ask themselves questions such as who is Pip’s benefactor, who are Estella’s parents, how much does Mr Jaggers know, what will happen between Pip and Estella, it is these questions that keep the readers anxious and wanting answers, this technique is also known as the cliff hanger technique.
Dickens involves social issues in his works. In ‘Great Expectations’ he refers to both the British justice system and the treatment of children as well as the phrase ‘children should be seen not heard’ he presents this issue in his other book ‘Oliver Twist’. An example of the treatment of children is Estella and how she is raised with psychological torment. Another social issue Dickens presents in ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Hard times’ is the awful working conditions of people. The inclusion of social issues was expected by Dickens.
Charles Dickens creates memorable characters to keep the reader’s attention, for instance Pip, Pip narrates the story. The readers witness the development of Pip from childhood to manhood and as he becomes rich, he loses his moral values such as his embarrassment of Joe’s simple manners. It is through Pip that Dickens explores the themes of value in a person. Dickens also examines how a character can lose all their goodness for instance Miss Havisham, who was betrayed on her wedding day and was psychologically scarred.
Miss Havisham as a result of her past has ended up old, bitter and decayed both physically and morally ‘I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes’. Her moral decay is clearly shown when she poisons young Estella’s mind into thinking all men are indispensable. Another memorable character created by Dickens is Mr Jaggers the lawyer, he is presented in such a way that he isn’t forgotten and is highly efficient. Charles Dickens adds a dimension to Mr Jaggers by making the character frequently wash his hands as a sign of guilt; this technique was also used by Shakespeare in ‘Macbeth’, where Lady Macbeth frequently washes her hands as a sign of guilt. Thus Dickens presents his readers with interesting and complex characters to keep them entertained. This technique used by Dickens is called characterisation.
The ending of ‘Great Expectations’ is highly uncertain and controversial. Pip was frequently rejected by Estella, but the conclusion suggests that they became partners, which is unrealistic. My thought on the story is ‘Great Expectations’ is thrilling and entertaining through the use of description, suspense, social issues and characterisations. In conclusion Dickens makes use of a variety of techniques to provide his readers a compelling story which captures both their attention and amusement.