Great Expectations Critical Analysis

“Great Expectations” was written in the mid 19th century by the world famous novelist Charles Dickens. Of key significance is the relationship between Pip (a growing young man) and Magwitch (an escaped convict) In Chapters One and Thirty-nine we read about the first and second meetings of the two characters, separated by 15 years. In Chapter one of Great Expectations Pip is a humble, polite orphan whose parents died before the time of photography and he now lives with his sister and her husband
Mr Joe Gargery. As he has never seen his parents he uses the look of their tombstones to get an image of what they would have looked like. “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. ” This suggests Pip is a lonely sensitive boy and one who misses his parents and brothers. He also goes on to describe his mother as a freckled and sickly woman, not a very high opinion of his mother, maybe due to the fact that his sister (Mrs.
Joe Gargery) is a cruel mother figure and an accurate guess at what his mother would look like if she were alive. He also describes his five brothers who all died at a young age and he buried under tombstones/lozenges all of them, he imagines born with their hands in their pockets lying on their backs. Pip goes on to describe the Kent marshes on which he lived as a very bleak place and a place that you could understandably imagine as being shivery cold during the autumn and winter. Living on this cold marsh would be hard it was in an inhospitable environment one cold Christmas eve.

As Pip encounters a man that appears from amongst the graves, he is without a hat (Nineteenth century, gentlemen wore hats) and dressed shabbily with a great iron around his leg, it must have been clear to Pip that this man was a convict. The man was clearly shivering and not dressed suitably for the weather. Pip is then threatened on a number of occasions, “Hold your noise! ” cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat! The convict, Magwitch, issues imperatives/commands and orders Pip around.
The convict goes on to demand after much deliberation, a file and wittles (food), Pip has been threatened by the convict time and again and one of the convicts methods of intimidation is by threatening Pip with a person that goes by the name “Young man”, he compares this young man to himself by calling himself an Angel in comparison, this young man is said to be able to eat a child’s liver, creep his way into a boys room and when they feel safe under their covers tear them open.
Pip is finally let go, to run home but meanwhile with the thought of this young man in his head thinking about how to get food from his cruel sister. Mrs. Joe Gargery is hard and Pip would be hit by the tickler (a wooden stick) if caught stealing food or even suggesting giving food to the convict (Magwitch). There is a significant change in the Pip of Chapter thirty-nine to the poor, labouring boy in Chapter one. Pip has now grown up into a 23 year old gentleman and 15 years have elapsed since his unnerving ordeal on the marshes where he used to live.
He now has money from a mystery benefactor and time on his hands, he reads for hour upon hour for much of the day (Not many people could read in the 19th century. It was an important source of entertainment if you could read). Although Pip had his books, his flat mate Herbert had taken a journey to France, leaving him by himself, miserable and dispirited. The weather played a huge part in creating mood and atmosphere as it was menacing and miserable outside. The wind rushing up the river shook the house that night, like discharges of cannon, or breaking of a sea” which in an echo of Chapter 1 on the Kent marshes with the discharges of cannon signalling the escape of convicts. “The staircase lamps were blown out” showing it to be a murky crepuscular environment.
Pip then hears the sound of a single footstep on a stair, making him apprehensive and connecting it with being crept up upon by his dead sister Mrs Joe Gargery in an earlier chapter. Eager to discover who or what it is, he remembers the storm outside and the pitch darkness before him. Remembering then, that the staircase-lights were blown out, I took up my reading-lamp and went out to the stair-head. Whoever was below had stopped on seeing my lamp, for all was quiet. ” A voice answers him from the dark, eclipse staircase. Moving the lamp closer to the stranger Pip started to describe his face as being browned by exposure to the weather which suggested that he worked in the fields as a labouer, Pip is proud that he is no longer a “labouring boy” as Estella once called him. The conversation between Pip the stranger – Magwitch reveals that he is Pip’s benefactor.
Pip is then shocked to believe that Magwitch his childhood tormentor is his benefactor and tries to find ways in which to involve Miss Havisham or any other respectable people that he could think of. The dialogue between them showed a significant role reversal, with Pip issuing orders and Magwitch like Pip in the marshes, holding on to some hope that he will be treated kindly by Pip. Pip doesn’t want anything to do with this man and repulses him. Yet as the conversation starts to end Pip starts to feel more and more incriminated.
He wants this to have never of happened and regrets that his good fortune comes from this convict. He starts to think to himself and use personification to describe the wind and the rain. It becomes apparent that Pip is startled and astounded by this change in events, yet still does not want Magwitch to suffer the punishment due to him if he were to be caught in England. (hanging). The mention in Chapter one of the gallows is a reminder to us of how cruelly prisoners could be treated in Victorian times.
The escaped convict in Chapter one, was revealed to be named Magwitch, He had escaped from the prison ships and somehow made his way through the Kent marshes to the cemetery where Pip, was mourning his dead family, Magwitch had no real hope of surviving on the harsh, arctic temperatures and gale force winds of the marsh environment. He needed to convince this boy to get him food and some sort of tool to remove the great iron from his legs. The only way to ensure that Pip would do what he asked was to install fear in him.
Magwitch cleverly using the idea of has protecting Pip from another young man. He ensured that Pip was going to get him some food and a file, but still had to sleep in the marshes over night holding onto some hope that Pip might come back. Magwitch in Chapter Thirty-nine is a rich man having made a fortune Australia and is now looking towards Pip for hope. He’s come all the way from Australia but is still a fugitive. He hopes that Pip will accept him into his life. Pip’s rejection of him as being his benefactor must have been a huge bombshell to Magwitch to see the repulsion on Pip’s face.
Magwitch has spent 15 years dreaming of this meeting with “my boy” Pip. He’s grateful to “noble pip” that helped him on the marshes. He must be hurt by Pip’s rejection. On the sound of the second cannon another prisoner escapes from the prison ships. He gets to safety in the marshes and is found by Pip as a drunk convict. When Pip tells Magwitch of the man he is instantly startled and files away trying to get the great iron of his leg. Pip thinks this man was the young man Magwitch was using to intimidate him but it wasn’t.
There is no clear explanation of why Magwitch and Compeyson (the 2nd escaped convict) have a rivalry but the scar on Compeyson’s cheek tells a possible story in itself. Many of a thing could have happened to result in Compeyson obtaining a scar on his cheek but the most common view is a most probable fight with Magwitch. Compeyson in chapter thirty-nine is a man still eagerly awaiting revenge on Magwitch (whose alias is Provis). He finds out that Magwitch has come to England and sees this as his chance to get Magwitch back into prison/executed.
He follows the movements of magwitch for a substantial amount of time; Magwitch is caught and almost killed by a ship’s enormous rotating wheel. Provis succeeds in his revenge, and Magwitch later dies in a hospital bed beside Pip giving him a sort of blessing to marry his daughter Estella. There are powerful descriptions of settings throughout the novel, such as the dark murky Kent marshes and the dark staircase of the apartment in London. The Setting can have a huge effect on the imagination of the reader and the mood the author is trying to convey.
During the early stages of chapter one Pip gives the readers a clear understanding of what the marshes looked like in the sentence, “Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. ” This alone tells me the marshes are located in a not too dissimilar surrounding to London in the way a river passes through it, but as a source of information to tell if the area is widely populated or if the building are fairly new or maybe old.
It doesn’t help that much, maybe a purposely written piece of setting by Charles Dickens, giving the reader the chance to use there own imaginative freedom to make a mental picture in their minds. “that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river”. Have feature of a horror story. Dickens sets a chilling mood to prepare the audience for something scary. The alliteration”low leaden line” the metaphor “savage lair” enhance the atmosphere of ominous brooding.
Chapter thirty-nine opens with a setting of real importance. Without Dickens’ clever use of short and long sentences, repetition, metaphors and personification, Chapter Thirty-nine in my opinion wouldn’t be as effective and would reduce the whole climax of the chapter when Pip’s benefactor is revealed to him. “It was wretched weather; stormy and wet, stormy and wet; and mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets. Day after day, a vast heavy veil had been driving over London from the East, and it drove still, as if in the East there were an Eternity of cloud and wind.
So furious had been the gusts, that high buildings in town had had the lead stripped off their roofs; and in the country, trees had been torn up, and sails of windmills carried away; and gloomy accounts had come in from the coast, of shipwreck and death. Violent blasts of rain had accompanied these rages of wind, and the day just closed as I sat down to read had been the worst of all. ” This single paragraph is a key component in the structure of this whole chapter. The opening sentence uses repetition and semi colons indicate how it should be read in a specific thrilling way.
It creates a picture of a wilderness not too dissimilar to the settings in the bleak Kent marshes. Dickens describes this storm as a terrible event, the use of the word “Eternity” indicated a constant barrage of wind and cloud dominated the sky, a never ending attack of fury upon the rooftops of London. An enormous change can be seen in Pip from the small fragile boy in Chapter one to the snob and spoilt young man of Chapter Thirty-nine. This is a story of the development and change of Pip, Magwitch and Victorian Society.

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