The first chapter of Great Expectations is about a young boy called Pip and a terrifying event in his life, which is being looked back on by the voice of an older more mature Phillip Pirrip in the first person which gives limitations as we can only see his viewpoint and knowledge. Dickens uses Dual Narration; at first the older Phillip Pirrip introduces himself, and then the younger, innocent Pip experiences the events as the main character. The novel was written in the Victorian age and really does show how difficult life was during that age for the poorer people.
Dickens uses his own experiences working in a blacking factory which help him describe in detail the problems of Victorian life. The opening chapter is very exciting and achieves the main target; to get the reader interested and want to read on, Dickens does this using a Narrative hook. The setting is in a graveyard which is surrounded by the marshes, the river and the sea. The weather is grim and the graveyard is ‘bleak’ and un-kept; ‘a bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard’.
Pip does not fit this dull setting as he is innocent and vulnerable, Magwitch, however, matches the doleful setting perfectly as he is impious and evil. The extensive description of the grave yard and the area it is within builds up towards the end of the third paragraph gives the reader a sense of tension. Pip is quite happy and comfortable in the graveyard at the beginning perhaps because of his immaturity and that reality of the world, where people live, and die, hasn’t hit him yet and he doesn’t yet understand danger and that a graveyard represents death.
However, as the tale progresses and realisation and fear, developed with age strikes young Pip he starts to feel uncomfortable and scared as he realises that the graves surrounding him are inhabited by dead people. He realises that the scenery and the weather surrounding him is scary. And he realises that he is alone, an orphan, and has nobody nearby to help him. To make Pip contrast with the setting is a fantastic way to establish a sense of sympathy for him.
Pip is introduced by the adult narrator in the novel in a humorous way to show his innocence, laughing at his own naivety; ‘My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Phillip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. ‘ This name is symbolic as it represents a seed that will grow. Pip is of the working class and was raised in a Victorian religious period by Mrs Joe Gargery; his elder sister, and her husband Mr Joe Gargery; the blacksmith, Pip is an orphan.
Pip calls his mother ‘also Georgiana’ which shows his naivety and his neglection from love; no one has even bothered to tell him his mothers name is not ‘also Georgiana’ but Georgiana. Pip has five dead brothers; ‘five little lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside there grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine’ which indicates that the infant mortality rate was high at the time. Pip grew up in a patriarchal, society and people believed in self help, so things weren’t fair and people with problems had no help.
The story is told using dual narration; there are two voices, one of the older and wiser Pip who is the narrator, and one of the younger, naive Pip is the main character. The narrator tells the reader how he had thought his parents had looked, taken from the way the writing on their grave stones was inscribed; ‘my first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones’ this shows that he was quite comfortable in the graveyard to begin with as he is comfortable, as an adult, to joke about his immaturity.
Young Pip’s view on how his brothers had died shows he is young, innocent and naive, as he thinks ‘they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trouser pockets. ‘ I think this shows humour too. Pip believes his brothers have dodged work deliberately, as he does not realise that people die without wanting to and doesn’t know that death is not a good thing, he is prepared for a life of hard work as a blacksmith for Joe Gargery. But realisation hits Pip from the middle of the third paragraph, and he becomes enlightened to the harsh side of life at that time, he realises ‘the identity of things’.
He has realised that his parents are actually dead and that he is an orphan and it is something he should be upset about; ‘Phillip Pirrip late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried. ‘ This realisation from Pip begins to create drama as the tension builds up, Pips realisation of what the graveyard represents, and the cold remote are surrounding him raises the level of tension. Pips innocent misunderstanding of the world helps create a feeling of sympathy towards Pip from the audience. The terrifying appearance of Magwitch adds to the tension, the drama, and the reader’s sympathy for Pip creating a climax.