In this essay I will be exploring the many different ways in which Charles Dickens creates sympathy for his character of Pip; the setting of the story, the interaction with other characters, the language used, the mood created and the effect given. I will also be reflecting on Dickens’ life and drawing comparisons with that and his stories. Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations in the 19th century, at a time when Victorian England was struck by a large class division. There were many people living in poverty, starving, and many people who were rich and wealthy. Dickens grew up in the poverty stricken side.
At twelve years old he left school to work, as his father had been sent away to a debtor’s prison, a place that is frequently referred to in his books. In taking a closer look at Charles Dickens’ life it becomes clear that his novels reflect personal experiences. Most of his works are based around class, society, money and especially children (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol and of course Great Expectations). ‘Great Expectations’ is a perfect example of how Dickens was attempting to inform his readers on the struggle some people faced to be accepted into a new class.
He created a story that made the contrast between rich and poor clear and concise. It was his honesty and description that made him a very successful Victorian author. There are two messages that come across in the story. The more sinister being, ‘upper class people are treated better the lower class people’. Dickens intention wasn’t to make the upper class feel guilty, especially as they would have been the people most likely to be reading his book, it was purely to make them more aware of the way other people live and how hard some people try just to fit in.
‘Great Expectations’ is the story of Pip, and his journey from a blacksmith’s helper to a gentleman. He lives with his sister and her husband as the rest of Pip’s family have all died. He is forced, by his sister, into a relationship with Miss Havisham, a very wealthy but distant relative, to try and place a claim on the inheritance. Whilst spending time with Miss Havisham in her desolate mansion Pip meets Estella, a perfect copy of Miss Havisham, and falls in love. Pip is then informed of a secret benefactor who wants to make Pip a gentleman. Pip assumes this is Miss Havisham, and she allows him to think so.
As a gentleman Pip finds it hard to stick to his allowance and winds up in debt, and in a debtors prison. Pip then discovers that his real benefactor is infact Magwitch, the convict whom he helped when he was younger. Pip is greatly embarrassed by this yet feels that he needs to repay Magwitch by getting him out of the country and away from the certain death he faces if he is to be caught. During the escape they are caught and Magwitch is killed. Pip then realizes that he does not belong in that class and returns home where he continues to work with Joe at the blacksmiths.
Even in just a very short summary of the story it is obvious that Pip is going to gather a lot of sympathy. Most of the sympathy for Pip is created in the beginning of the novel. This is because the readers usually form their opinions on a character from the characters first appearance. Charles Dickens uses his settings as mood enhancers. In both extract one (where Pip is in the graveyard) and extract two (where Pip enters Miss Havisham’s house for the first time) Pip is placed in very depressing circumstances. In extract one Pip meets Magwitch, an escaped convict, in the grave-yard where Pip’s family is buried.
Magwitch then has Pip gather him items to bring back to him. Extract one starts with Pip introducing himself in a non-personal way. He doesn’t speak to the readers directly but it is still written in the first person, “So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip” Pip then goes on to talk about his family. When he is talking about his mother as, “Also Georgina Wife of the Above” it makes the reader want to protect Pip and mother him because you realize that, “Also Georgina Wife of the Above” is the only way Pip has ever known his mother.
He has never known his father either as Pip says that, “The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man with curly black hair. ” The way Pip describes his brothers being dead is very understated but it gets the message across, and the reader begins to think how awful this boys life must have been if all his family being dead isn’t affecting him. “To five little lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which we arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine. “