From a completely different lifestyle comes the wealthy Miss Havisham. However, she is also struggling in her own separate way, despite the fact she is well off and privileged. Miss Havisham has attempted to seal her self away from the harsh realities of life and shuts herself off from human company. Unfortunately, by blocking out all of this it doesn’t help her. In fact, because she is dwelling on the pain that has been put upon her from past events, it has made her feel worse off and more miserable. The blocking out of daylight is symbolic of her unhappiness.
She has not succeeded in insulating herself from the pain. The name of Miss Havishams house, Satis House, Latin for enough house. This is ironic because Miss Havisham does not have enough to satisfy her needs. The words Dickens uses to describe her such as ‘waxwork … skeleton … faded’ and ‘withered’ all make Miss Havisham seem aged and worn. These words are significant because Dickens wants us to know these words are significant because Dickens wants us to know that is emotionally dead. Another feature that is symbolic is the wedding cake.
Dickens describes it in such a way that it shares similar characteristics as Miss Havisham; he uses phrases such as ‘heavily overhung with cobwebs … undistinguishable’ to make it sound old and to portray it as falling apart. When Pip meets Magwitch for a second time, out on the marshes, Magwitch is seen physically suffering from cold and starvation. There are many phrases that Dickens uses to describe the terrible in which he is suffering. “I half expected to see him drop down before my face and die of deadly cold… he shivered all the while, so violently”
These phrases show us how cold the convict is, but on the other hand Dickens uses imagery to describe the convict’s hunger. He compares Magwitch’s way of eating to that of a dog. “A man who was putting it away somewhere in a violent hurry… he was gobbling mincemeat… I had often watched a large dog of ours eating his food; and I now noticed a decided similarity between the dog’s way of eating and the man’s. ” All of these suggest that dickens wants us to see Magwitch as an animal and not a human and the word “gobbling” gives him an even more animal like characteristic.
The novel is written in the first person through the eyes of an adult Pip. Because he is older he is also wiser and he now realises the mistakes he made. Also, it makes the novel more personal and almost sounds as if it is a diary of Pip’s life. In the early chapters of “Great Expectations” Dickens describes life in Victorian England as a “universal struggle”. I strongly agree with this assessment after reading the opening chapters of the novel. He does this in numerous ways; one important point he makes is that Pip is led to believe everybody lives in the same way he does and accepts it.
Because everybody is struggling it is universal. Another is that even though Miss Havisham is incredibly wealthy, she is still struggling with the harsh realities of the time; but by shutting herself away she is let to dwell on the pain and no material goods are able to convince her that her life is full of opportunities to find new happiness. Finally, the way Magwitch is given animal characteristics to show how much he is struggling to keep nourished and also the way he is described to portray how he is almost physically dead, whereas Miss Havisham is emotionally dead.
These first chapters show that Dickens was truly concerned with the lives of the less fortunate. His two most important reasons for writing were to inform people of the harsh reality of the Victorian era but still provide an interesting, gripping and emotional piece of narrative that is factual yet at the same time contains fairytale aspects. Today, the need for human compassion and just are still as relevant as they were over a hundred years ago. Without these in your life, as Dickens makes clear, you will be part of an epic struggle to overcome the cruelty of life.