Charles Dickens was born on the 7th February 1812, during the Victorian era. He was born in Portsmouth but spent most of his life in London. He was considered to be the best author of Victorian times and his work is still very famous today. His father was a well paid clerk in the Navy and his family were well off and very high up in the social classes. But in 1814 his father fell into a lot of debt and ended up in prison.
This made the Dickens family fall down the social class ladder and become very poor. While Charles’s father was in prison, he died this meant that Charles had a very traumatic childhood. This childhood has featured in many of Dickens’s books through characters, for example, Great Expectations involves crime, class, London and bad family life, Charles experienced all of these things as a child. Also as a child Dickens’s experienced both classes – rich and poor, as Pip does in Great Expectations.
When Charles was 12 years old he was sent to work in a blacking factory in Hungerford market to try and help out his family who were in a lot of financial trouble. He used to dream about becoming a gentleman just like Pip does. From 1824-1827 Charles studied at Wellington House Academy and then from 1827-1828 he was a law office clerk. Then he went on to become a short hand reporter at Doctors Commons. In the 1830’s Dickens contributed to Monthly Magazine and the evening chronicle and edited Bentley’s Miscellany. These jobs gave him a taste for writing and in 1833 he started to write short stories, he had a very sharp ear for conversation, which helped him to create colourful and imaginative characters such as Miss Havisham.
Some of Dickens’s most famous books are A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Great Expectations. Many of his books were serialised in newspapers such as Great Expectations, which was serialised in 1860 in a newspaper called ‘All year round’ because of this the stories had to be interesting and give cliff-hangers so that people would want to buy the next instalment, just like TV soaps of today.
From reading the beginning of Great Expectations we have already learnt a lot about Pip’s character. As a child he was very poor and lived a working class life with his sister Mrs Joe Gargery and her husband Joe Gargery, the blacksmith. His sister treats him very badly, always shouting at him and blaming him for everything, but he gets on very well with Joe and when he reaches 14 he becomes his blacksmith apprentice. But it’s not just Pip’s sister that would give him a reason to be scared, while Pip was visiting his mothers and fathers grave when he was younger he came face to face with an escaped convict called Magwich who threatened him and was forced to bring him food. Also when Pip is a young boy he is sent an order to visit Miss Havisham to play and entertain her where he meets Estella and falls in love with her, but he knows that she would never love him back.
One day though Pip is told that he is to go to London and live the life of a gentleman and is given a large sum of money. But since he has been in London, suddenly very rich and not having to work he has become very arrogant and self centred. He is still in love with Estella and now thinks that he could have a chance with her because he is a gentleman and he thinks that it’s Miss Havisham that has been his benefactor.
In the Victorian times people loved to read about horror and suspense in their stories, just like horror films that people today love to watch. They were big fans of Dracula, The hound of the Baskerville, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Wuthering heights. So in many of his stories Dickens uses horror and suspense to grab his readers attention and Great Expectations is no exception. In chapter 39 Dickens manages to create a very high point in tension, suspense and horror, which is one of the reasons why Great Expectations was so popular.
Great Expectations is written in the first person narrative so we can get empathy of Pip. At the beginning of chapter 39 Charles Dickens created a sense of normality, that would add to the readers sense of expectation and anticipation of would was going to happen to Pip. He isn’t able to settle to anything in life all he does is read also he still doesn’t know who his benefactor is, he still secretly thinks it is Miss Havisham. Pip is all alone in his house and Dickens emphasises this by the repetition of the word ‘alone’. ” I was alone and had the dull sense of being alone” He is feeling quite depressed because his friend Herbert Pocket had gone on a trip to Marseilles.
Similarly Pip’s mood is reflected in the weather at the time. It is described as ‘stormy and wet,’ ‘a vast heavy veil,’ and ‘mud deep in all the streets’ this violent imagery sets the atmosphere and emphasises on the terrible weather also the repetition of the most violent descriptions makes in even more extreme. The alliteration on ‘wretched weather’ and ‘day after day’ draws people’s attention to the scene. Dickens also uses metaphors to make the weather sound more violent ‘violent blasts of rain has accompanied these rages of wind’ this makes the weather sound angry and that’s why it is so violent. The good use of adjectives adds to the suspense because you are able to imagine the setting, this would also add to the anticipation.