Great Expectations Analysis Free Essay Example

April 13, 2022 by Essay Writer

Write about how Dickens gives the reader a sense of tension and mystery in the opening of ‘Great Expectations’. Charles Dickens, the author of ‘Great Expectations’, uses many different ways and different methods of building up tension and mystery in the setting. He uses a variety of techniques to give the graveyard, the marshes and miss Havisham’s house mysterious feelings and give them a sense of darkness and Gothic horror. Dickens uses a semantic field to bring the effect of one specific subject, which in this case is revolving around death.

Many phrases that Dickens uses are to do with death and keletons. In the graveyard, where Pip meets the convict, Charles describes the convict escaping as dead hands reaching up at him, ‘eluding the hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves’. This adds tension because it adds more effect to the fact that he is actually a convict, and it’s meaning is that he’s escaping death, which is shown through him escaping the hands of the dead people.

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The phrase also holds horrific imagery because it’s like you’re seeing dead people’s hands which adds to the ‘Gothic horror’ part of the story.

Dickens also builds the semantic field up more using phrases such as the word ‘tombstone’ and ‘five little stone lozenges’. ‘Five little stone lozenges’ adds tension to the fact that Pip is the only one still alive out of his brothers. This builds the tension up because the reader will begin to wonder why he out of his brothers is still alive, and whether something is going to happen to him or not.

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This technique gives the reader a great fear for Pip, and will make them feel sorry for him. ‘Tombstone’ is used in the opening scene to introduce the reader to the graveyard and lso helps give an idea about what the graveyard is like.

Personification is used while describing the graveyard to create the mood of the setting and can connect to what may happen in the story. Phrases used for this include ‘savage lair’ and ‘raw afternoon’. ‘Raw afternoon’ adds effect because a possible meaning of this is that it means the afternoon is cold or is painful. This adds tension to the graveyard as it means that something could possibly happen to do with the characters, or that the weather is incredibly bad.

‘Savage lair’ describes the graveyard as somewhere that maybe a beast or a monster ould hide out in, so giving it this description would give it sort of a dangerous effect. This is because monsters and beasts are vicious labels thus giving them a dangerous vibe, so giving the graveyard a name to do with a monster would be giving it a dangerous effect adding to the tension, making it more scary towards Pip. There is also a lot more description about the graveyard, which adds to the tension and creates more fear towards the characters and towards the reader also.

It describes the graveyard and how it would make the characters feel, and it also compliments the characters’ ctions whilst in this setting. The graveyard is described as a ‘bleak place overgrown with nettles’ and the river near the graveyard is described as a ‘low leaden line’. These both give the graveyard a dull effect, ‘bleak’ meaning grey and dull, and ‘overgrown with nettles’ suggesting how lonely and dead the place actually is, which builds up tension because nobody goes there. ‘Low leaden line’ describes the river using a good example of alliteration and is given a dreary and slow effect by this.

Tension is also built up in the graveyard by describing the characters that are involved in the scene. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied around his head’ builds up the tension in the scene by breaking the sentence into three, describing him not all at once, but slowly. This creates the tension by giving each detail specifically and individually. ‘Teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin’ adds a menacing effect to the convict, as ‘chattered’ is a quite vicious onomatopoeia to use to describe his actions. ‘Teeth chattered’ adds more effect to this as it connects to ‘raw afternoon’ because they are both vicious descriptions, and they add more anxiety and tension.

In the marshes, there is a lot of use of a semantic field used by Charles Dickens, which also revolves around death and the supernatural. This story was given a supernatural because the story was set in Victorian years. The connection between supernatural and Victorians is that they believed in supernatural tales and legends, and they were drawn to a very Gothic culture, to do with ghosts and goblins. This meant things that were horrific and maybe slightly frightening, which may even add to the building up of tension in the story when it comes to mention anything ghostly or ghoulish about the setting.

Dickens also uses techniques such as pathetic fallacy to connect the mood of the scene to the characters, or to just compliment the character’s actions and make them stand out more than they already do, so the reader notices them more. The author uses phrases such as ‘the marshes were just a long black horizontal line’, ‘the sky was just a row of long angry red lines’ and ‘beacon by which the sailors steered’ to build the tension and add to the semantic field and the pathetic fallacy. ‘Long black horizontal line’ suggests that the marshes and dark, desolate nd isolated, which describe the convict’s character, playing a sort of backdrop role for him. This quote is also a symbol of death, and adds to the tension in the story as to whether the convict will be hung or not, which begins to make the reader think more. ‘The sky was just a row of long angry red lines’ is pathetic fallacy for how the convict feels, which shows that he’s pretty angry, and the concept of ‘blood’ reflects conflict within his character to the reader.

This and ‘dense black lines’ mix blood and death into one whole meaning, which creates more fear and anxiety towards the characters and also the reader. Beacon by which the sailors steered’ suggests good because it symbolises good against bad, like light against the dark. It suggests that it is guiding Pip, because it’s reflecting that his character is good, caring and bright, whereas the convict’s is angry and bad. These few quotes promote a contrast between both of the characters so the reader can tell, if not already, which character is good and which isn’t. ”Rimy’ is used to describe the marshes as well, as it is short from grimy and it suggests that it isn’t a very good and clean place to be at. More of the Gothic culture feel is used in the arshes.

This is shown through a variety of phrases that link to dark and supernatural effects such as ‘as if some goblin had been crying there all night’ and ‘wooden finger’. The phrase ‘as if some goblin had been crying there all night’ adds to the tension by connecting with the Gothic vibe and the Victorian traditions, with a goblin being part of the superstitions made by the Victorians. The simile of the goblin adds mystery and tension to the scene, giving you a strong image of the goblin actually crying. The ‘wooden finger’ also adds to the Gothic tradition and to the semantic field made around death.

Wooden finger’ connects to death in sense that when you die, and you completely leave everything for wherever else you are to go, your body turns into a sort of wooden structure. Your body becomes hard and difficult to move, which is known as rigomortis. This adds to the sense of death, along with many other words such as ‘phantom’, ‘hanging’ and ‘blade’, which all have at least one thing connecting to death and supernatural things. The marshes also kind of leaves the conflict between the two to rest, as it compares them together by using ‘as the iron was riveted to the leg of the man i was running to meet’.

This increases the tension by raising the effect of surprise to the reader. This quote links the boy and the convict together, but reminding you that the boy had stolen and in Victorian times you would have been considered a thief even if stolen off family, but he would have been called a convict too. Victorians used to cut off the hands of the people that stole, so they couldn’t actually steal again. This adds to the tension because it puts Pip in the same situation that the convict is in, only not as worse as his, yet if anyone catches him out. Another way the hock is increased to the reader is when Charles uses the phrase ‘and it was not the same man, but another man! ‘

This increases the shock also because an exclamation mark is used to add that element of surprise to the sentence. Dickens uses a variety of techniques while describing Miss Havisham’s house while he is visiting her. Tension is created by giving examples to dark corridors and chains hanging, with the phrases being ‘the passages were all dark, and that she had left a candle burning’ and also ‘the great front entrance had two chains across it’. This adds tension because it causes the eader to wonder why the passages are actually dark, and while only a single candle was burning, and also, what is so important about this house that two chains were hung across the front entrance. The two phrases kind of address the fact that the house is isolated and lonely, away from everything else, and the two chains separate it from the rest of the world, as if it were in it’s own planet. The darkness explained by the passages being dark portrays a Gothic and dark tradition to the story, giving the lady a Gothic vibe. This adds tension because it means that she could evil or mean.

The candle burning is an artificial light. This adds pathetic fallacy, meaning that the house is artificial and dark, with no natural sunlight to show through the house. Mrs Havisham is given a strange description, which adds to the mystery, by giving her factors such as everything surrounding her being white, and a lot of chaos around. White means that something is pure, and gives something a virgin theme. White also represents weddings, and when you learn about Mrs Havisham’s unfortunate history, you realise why there’s white surrounding her representing weddings.

Giving the room a chaotic description, which is given by using the phrase ‘chaos – her handkerchief, some flowers, a prayer book – confusedly heaped about the looking glass’ adds more to her personality, which adds to the mysterious part of the story. It adds to her personality giving her a chaotic feel, and threatens people around her, mainly Pip in general. But considering she has a chaotic feel, all the white around her had turned yellow. This is because it signifies ageing and things fading away. It represents that the purity within her has gone and the only thing left in her is bitter and old.

There is a semantic field used in the scene for Miss Havisham, giving her a sense of death, which uses a lot of phrases and words to suggest this. Using a semantic field of death shows that she’s old and can kind of show that everything about her is dead. Phrases that give this idea are ones such as ‘sunken eyes’, ‘had shrunken to skin and bone’, ‘march churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress’ and ‘waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved’. All four of these quotations from the story have at least one thing to do with skeletons and bones, which are connected to both death and Miss Havisham.

It suggests to the reader that the old lady is just turning into skin and bones, and very skeleton like. There are also a lot of phrases to describe that Miss Havisham is a very strange lady, and to show that Pip also thinks this. In the scene where he first meets her at her home, he describes her as “the strangest lady i have ever seen, or shall ever see”. A few other phrases that show how strange she is, which also add to why she is so bitter and old, and also why all of the chaos and white-turned-yellow objects and items are surrounding her. The phrase to ive effect and information to how she’s turned out so weird and scary towards Pip is ‘saw that her watch had stopped… that a clock in the room had stopped’. This raises the tension because you wonder why she has actually turned out the way she has, and you want to find out why it is that the clocks have stopped. Adding to this, earlier on in the story, and in the film also, the clock on the front of the house had stopped at the exact same time.

“It was then that i began to understand that everything in the room had stopped, like the watch and the clock, a long time ago. This gives more of an example and creates more tension to why the reader will want to read on and find out. This is because Pip’s line, and Charles Dickens, doesn’t give away the reason straight away, and only describes, so far, what the room looks like and what Pip is noticing. Charles Dickens uses the names of characters, as well as words, to describe them better. For example, the young girl’s name in the story is Estella, which actually means words like star, beautiful and bright, but also means things like distant, cold and unreachable. This helps to describe her character a lot more than just using words like ‘scornful’ and ‘proud and retty’. With the name meaning beautiful but cold, it gives more meaning to the descriptive words used to describe her actions.

It builds the tension up more knowing about her personality through her name because then you learn what she will be like towards Pip. Miss Havisham’s name sounds like a posh name, which is also shown through the house that she lives in, what she’s described to be wearing and also what is surrounding her. Her name also means alone, spinster and sham. These word describe her more through her name because she is alone and a spinster in the sense that she would have been married, but instead, she as left alone by her fianci??. She is also described as ‘the strangest lady’.

This adds mystery to the story because the reader wants to read about why she is the strangest lady – what makes her strange. ‘Skeletal’ and ‘faded and yellow’ are used to describe her as well, because she is made to sound very old and skeleton-like, which also adds mystery to it as you’d like to read about why she’s given them, and what makes her so like this. The convict is described as ‘threatening’ because of the things he says to Pip, which makes him seem more innocent than any other of the characters.

And also, the way Miss Havisham talks to Pip makes him seem even more innocent than already. In the story, Charles Dickens writes a lot of description to show that Pip is an innocent boy, and makes the reader feel sorry for him. There is evidence that other people in the story see him as innocent in the dialogue that takes place between the convict, Pip and Miss Havisham. When Pip meets the convict, the convict is threatening towards the young boy, and very demanding. “Or I’ll have your heart and liver out” is one of the many threats that he says towards Pip.

When the convict begins to tell Pip the story about the young man, sneaking in his room and harming him, Pip believes him and so gets him the things that he had asked for. When Pip returns with what the convict requested, the ‘file and whittles’, the convict became more friendly and kind towards him than before, even joking around. This is shown through the convict saying things such as “thankee, my boy, i do. ” The dialogue for Pip also gives his character a sense of innocence, with him described as ‘pleading in terror’. This is given by the quote ‘”O! Do not cut my throat, sir. ” I pleaded in error. ‘ With him saying this in a fearful manner it is basically telling us that he is afraid of the convict and that he’s more innocent.

There are words used in the text that describe that he is helpless and innocent, such as ‘helplessly’ and ‘fearful’. These make us feel sorry for him because we generally don’t want him to be unhappy. The convict speaks to him a lot in threats and he controls the dialogue using questions and imperative verbs, which tells him to do things, like getting the file and the whittles. Pip is respectful to both the convict and Miss Havisham, saying “No, sir, no! to the convict and “Yes, ma’am” to Miss Havisham. Both these quotes show that Pip is scared to speak as he only speaks in short sentences. When Pip first meets Miss Havisham, she speaks to him in a friendly tone and manner, but as the story goes on further, she begins to become ruder towards him, telling the young girl, Estella, to break his heart.

When she tells the girl to play cards with him, she says “Beggar him”, which is said right in front of him as well. Miss Havisham is mean to Pip, but all the same she speaks softly and calmly to him, as if being nice. There is a contrast in the way she speaks nd acts around and towards Pip. At the beginning when she meets him, she acts as if she’s almost examining Pip, and later on she tends to act like she wants revenge on all males. This is by lecturing him on what happened to her, and by giving Estella an order by saying “Well? You can break his heart”. Dickens used words very smartly. The use of imperative verbs is very heavy used and they add to the tension. They give us this sense of tension because the feeling of the character is put into the feeling of the reader. It connects the reader to the character and gives them a sense of a rush and hurry.

An imperative verb is basically a verbal command. The use of one makes it seem obvious that there is a need to do something. The author uses imperative verbs when Pip meets the convict. He gives the convict dialogue to say to Pip, which tells him to do things for him, such as “You get me a file”, and “Now”, which he says almost like there’s no other choice and Pip HAS to do it. It is a command that he must do, and which he must obey, so if the convict had said something a little more politely then Pip probably wouldn’t have got him anything. The fact that imperative verbs are aid very harshly by the character, makes it seem even more like it must be done, and added to the convicts character, it makes it seem like it even more. Miss Havisham also has a role in using imperative verbs.

She uses imperative verbs to Pip to command him to do something, more and more helping to break his heart. The words that she uses are “Call Estella” and “Come nearer”. The way she says this very harshly gives her the authority over Pip, and will easily command him to do something. When both the convict and Miss Havisham use imperative verbs, it gives them the superiority over the other characters, leaving Pip innocent nd helpless.

Charles uses another writing technique that adds the tension, this is by using a juxtaposition. A juxtaposition is where the writer uses two words or two phrases, together which contrast against each other, such as “weird smile”. This is a juxtaposition because weird is a quite negative word, meaning strange, whereas smile is a positive word meaning happy and good. It creates the tension this way because the writer gives you a reason to think about the text, and to make you think about what he means. It gets the reader involved, and makes the reader carry on reading because they need to find out what he means by this.


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