Sunday, December 2, 2012

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

1. Briefly summarize the plot of the novel you read, and explain how the narrative fulfills the author's purpose (based on your well-informed interpretation of same).

The story begins with Pip, a young orphan living with his sister and her husband in Kent, sitting in a cemetery looking at his parents’ tombstones. A convict jumps up from behind a tombstone, grabs Pip, and orders him to bring him some food and a file to break his chains. Pip obeys. The convict is soon captured and during the capture the convict claims to have stolen the items himself, protecting Pip.
            Pip is taken by his Uncle Pumblechook to the Satis House, home to Miss Havisham. During the visit Pip meets a beautiful young girl named Estella, who only treats him coldly. Pip falls in love with her anyway and dreams of becoming a gentleman and winning her heart. Pip’s hopes are eventually dashed after Miss Havishman decides to help him become a laborer in his family’s business.
            Under Miss Havisham’s guidance, Pip is apprenticed to his brother-in-law, the village blacksmith. Pip works unhappily in the forge while trying to get an education with the help of Biddy and Orlick. One night Mrs. Joe, Pip’s sister, is attacked. Pip suspects that Orlick is responsible for the attack. One day a lawyer arrives with the news  that a secret benefactor has given Pip a large fortune and Pip must come to London to begin his education as a gentleman. Pip assumes that Miss Havisham is his secret benefactor and she intends for him to marry Estella.
            In London, Pip befriends Herbert Pocket and Wemmick. Pip expresses his disdain for his former friends and loved ones but continues to pine after Estella. Pip learns under Matthew Pocket, Herbert’s father, and learns edict from Herbert. Pip and Herbert live a fairly undisciplined life in London. Orlick arrives in London as Miss Havisham’s porter but is quickly fired when Pip reveals Orlick’s past. Mrs Joe dies and Pip goes home for the funeral. Several years pass and the convict reappears randomly. The convict, named Magwitch, turns out to be the secret benefactor, not Miss Havisham. He reveals that he was touched by Pip’s boyhood kindness and dedicated his life in Australia to making a fortune so that Pip can become a gentleman.
            Pip feels morally bound to help Magwitch escape the police and his former partner in crime, Compeyson. A mystery begins to evolve as Pip discovers that Compeyson abandoned Miss Havisham at the alter and Estella is Magwitch’s daughter. As revenge for Compeyson’s actions Miss Havisham raised Estella with a special talent for breaking men’s hearts.
            Before Magwitch’s escape attempt, Estella marries an upper-class man named Bentley Drummle. Pip visites the Satis House once again, where Miss Havisham begs for his forgiveness. Miss Havisham’s clothing catches fire later that day, she survives but becomes an invalid. Pip is called to the marshes near Kent where he meets Orlick once again. Orlick nearly kills Pip when his life is saved by Herbert. Pip and Herbert attempt to sneak Magwitch down the river but are discovered by the police. Compeyson, who tipped the police off, fights Magwitch and Compeyson drowns.Magwitch is sentenced to death, Pip looses his fortune and falls ill, Joe comes to London to care for Pip, Orlick is sent to jail, Miss Havisham dies and leaves her fortune to the Pockets.Pip goes with Herbert abroad to work in the mercantile trade. After many Pip returns and encounters Estella in the ruined garden of the Satis House. Pip finds that Estella’s husband treated her badly (he is dead) and her coldness has been replaced with kindness. The two leave the garden hand in hand.
2. Succinctly describe the theme of the novel. Avoid cliches.

The theme of Great Expectations is Ambition and Self-Improvement. That affection, loyalty, and conscience are more important than wealth or class.

3. Describe the author's tone. Include a minimum of three excerpts that illustrate your point(s).

Charles Dickens tone in Great Expectations is somewhat reminiscent of a diary or journal. Basically a reflective, remorseful story of Pip’s life. Like that of an old man reflecting on his childhood.

4. Describe a minimum of ten literary elements/techniques you observed that strengthened your understanding of the author's purpose, the text's theme and/or your sense of the tone. For each, please include textual support to help illustrate the point for your readers. (Please include edition and page numbers for easy reference.)

·      Point of view – “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, I called myself Pip…” (pg 1) Pip establishes himself as the narrator and helps the audience to understand the tone.
·      Tone – “At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard…” (pg 1) This establishes the early bleak tone and though it changes throughout the novel this is a good example.
·      Characterization – “She seemed much older than I, of course being a girl, and beautiful and self-possessed; and she was as scornful of me as if she had been one-and-twenty, and a queen.” (pg 46) All the characterizations that occur in the novel are the opinions of Pip helping to add to the novel’s overall tone.
·      Setting – “I strolled into the garden and strolled all over it. It was quite a wilderness, and there were old melon-frames and cucumber-frames in it, which seemed in their decline to have produced spontaneous growth of weak attempts…” (pg 77) Dickens uses the settings to add to the overall tone of passages, this one for example adds to the dispair of the Satis House.
·      Symbolism – “…was brought here. It and I have worn away together.” (pg 76) Here Miss Hayisham refers to the cake as being her in rather blatant symbolism.
·      Foreshadowing – “Well? You can break his heart.” (pg 50) This is a taste of the character of Miss Havisham and her story. Also it foreshadows Estella’s character and actions as well.
·      Irony – “’There's Matthew!’ said Camilla, ‘Never mixing with any natural ties, never coming here to see how Miss Havisham is!’” (pg 75) This is ironic because Matthew is one of the only people who truly care for Miss Havisham and not her money.
·      Antithesis – “So new to him; so old to me; so strange to him; so familiar to me.” (pg 47) This is used to highlight the differences between the old Miss Havisham and the young Pip.
·      Allusion – “When will you come to London?” (pg 122) London referenced many times in the narrative as it is in many other works.
·      Simile – “He looked in my young eyes as if he were eluding the hands of the dead people…” (pg 5) Dickens uses similes to add to the descriptive nature of the novel.

1. Describe two examples of direct characterization and two examples of indirect characterization.  Why does the author use both approaches, and to what end (i.e., what is your lasting impression of the character as a result)?


“A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg.” (pg 1)

“Though she called me ‘boy’ so often, she was of about my own age.” (pg 49)


“Well? You can break his heart.” (pg 50)

“’I do not,’ returned Miss Havisham, ‘I am yellow skin and bone’” (pg 73)

It would appear that Dickens uses direct to paint a picture of the character’s physical appearance and then use indirect to show how the characters act and the measure of their character.

2. Does the author's syntax and/or diction change when s/he focuses on character?  How?  Example(s)?

The authors syntax and diction become more descriptive when describing characters. The novel seems to be based around getting to know the characters and forming attachments to them and Dickens does a really good job introducing you to them.

3. Is the protagonist static or dynamic?  Flat or round?  Explain.

The protagonist, Pip, is defiantly dynamic and round. He is dynamic because his views change many times throughout the novel and it is especially obvious because the narration changes with him. Pip is round because he has all the characteristics you expect from a person, not just one or two.

4. After reading the book did you come away feeling like you'd met a person or read a character?  Analyze one textual example that illustrates your reaction.

I feel like I’ve met an actual person, which is a first from the books I have had to read in my Literature class. Pip is an actual person relaying his memoirs to me and the rest of the audience.

“…I call myself Pip…” (pg 1)

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