Sympathy in Dickens’ Novel Great Expectations Free Essay Example

April 13, 2022 by Essay Writer

Gauging from the first sentence that the name Phillip Pirrip gets shortened to Pip because Pip had an infant tongue so he could not pronounce his name properly, the reader can tell straight away that Pip is small and innocent as we also tend to think of a pip as something small that will soon grow. Following on from that in the same paragraph, Pip is all alone in the desolate graveyard of his parents in the bleak Kentish marshes, and by putting Pip in this position Dickens immediately builds sympathy for Pip.

The way Pip is portrayed is reflected in Charles Dickens’s view of children’s social status in England in 1860. He believed that society was treating children unfairly and unjustly and that by writing Great Expectations, he could show his vast amount of readers his opinion and attempts to persuade them of his views in his writing. Children of this time period would often have to work long hours in workhouses if they couldn’t afford education and Dickens himself was a living example of this as his own dad became broke and Dickens was taken out of school.

However, Dickens would have a pessimistic view of Great Expectations sparking any major social change, as this was one of his later novels and his views of social class hadn’t affected his readers previously. In addition the title ‘Great Expectations’ would be what Dickens would have had at first for his attempts to change how society was viewed, but unfortunately his attempts had a very futile impact.

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The three main themes that reside in Great Expectations revolve around Pip. The first main theme is Pip being young and slightly ignorant and the audience would be drawn to feel sympathetic towards his puerility.

The second theme is Pip coming into wealth but inturn becoming snobbish, pompous and egotistical which is shown by his behaviour towards Joe and the reader would feel less sympathy towards Pip. The final main theme is moral development as Pip discovers his employer is Magwich and in this theme Dickens argues that poor or less well off people treat people with as much respect as the wealthy do, as Dickens often felt that the poor were victimized and criminalized purely because of their social status.

Pip proves this point by showing better social qualities when he was poor than when he had wealth. Great Expectations was written in episodes so the chapters are developed in a different way compared to your average novel. Chapters often end with narrative enigmas or include repetition to remind the reader of the previous events, and the events are usually distributed evenly. The story is also unique because it is written in a dual fist person narrative. This gives the story another dimension as Pip is telling his own story about his youth from an adult perspective.

By using a dual first person narrative Pips opinions are good examples of sophisticated characterisation and having the added adult opinion makes the book humorous as it gives more in-depth opinions. Pips over exaggerated child’s opinion about Miss Havisham, Estella and Mrs Joe are often witty and show the events in a new light and in a different perspective. The impact of the opening chapter is striking and memorable for its setting and the way Pip is alone and isolated on the marshes. Dickens immediately builds sympathy for Pip as he is on his own in a bleak and deserted graveyard.

The reader would automatically feel sorry for Pip and wonder what would bring this poor, young innocent boy to the setting he finds himself in. It is explained in the next few sentences “As I never saw my father… my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. ” Pip not even what his parents looked like is a tragedy and it provokes a huge amount of sympathy for him. He also goes on to say how he imagines his parents to be like by visualising childish characterisations like “My mother was freckled and sickly,” that he deduces because he is an orphan.

Another way that Dickens builds sympathy for Pip through his family is that Pip has 5 deceased brothers. He sounds like he misses them “Sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine. ” In addition this could also build sympathy because being in a family with 5 other brothers would mean that he wouldn’t get a lot of attention or a lot of vital needs like food or drink because of children’s inferiority at the time. Dickens also builds sympathy for Pip by the marshes that he is in at the beginning of chapter one. The graveyard is obviously an ominous place and the “bleak marshes” also sound depressing.

Near the end of the chapter as Pip is departing from the graveyard he comes across a “gibbet, with some chains hanging to it which had once held a pirate. ” A gibbet is where criminals were hanged on display and Pip who is obviously intimidated by the escaped convict imagines him striding towards them as a pirate. Shortly after this, Pip shows his youthful adolescence and runs home frightened of the escaped convict. Whilst in the graveyard, Pip comes across the escaped convict Magwich. Magwich is instantly intimidating towards Pip as he yells to him in “a terrible voice.

” He also threatens Pip by saying “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat! ” Pip behaving so polite and innocent contrasts with the rude and obstinate mannerisms of the convict and highlights to the reader that he is unlucky to find himself in this situation and therefore they feel sympathy towards him. Furthermore the convict’s appearance would be shocking as Pip describes him as “A man who has been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars. ”

Pip who would undoubtedly have never seen anyone as disfigured, dismembered or dysfunctional in his short life and would be feeling extremely perturbed by Magwich but also sympathetic towards him and his current situation. As well as verbally attacking Pip Magwich also physically attacks him by turning him upside down and emptying his pockets. Magwich then continues to tilt Pip over a little more to give him “a greater sense of helplessness and danger” and then gave him “the most tremendous dip and roll, so that the church jumped over its own weather-cock.

” After reading this violent harassment of Pip the reader would feel he had been harshly treated and feel sympathetic towards him. Moreover Magwich constantly scrutinizes Pip “what fat cheeks you ha’ got,” and even makes up that “There’s a young man hid with me. ” Pip is trapped in this harrowing situation and eventually has to adhere to the convicts wishes. But when he departs, Pip feels sorry for the convict’s present state as he walked away from Pip “still hugging himself in both arms. “


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