Dickens' View of the World Shown Through the Narration of Pip in Great Expectations

513 Words 3 Pages
Dickens' View of the World Shown Through the Narration of Pip in Great Expectations

Reading the opening chapter of Great Expectations demonstrates something of the extraordinary range and power of Dickens language. After a brief statement about his self-naming, which in itself is important as it instigates the whole debate about identity in the novel, Pip goes on to entertain us with an amusing description of his family graves, their inscriptions, and what he, as a small boy, made of them. The older, more sophisticated narrator explores the imaginative but essentially innocent mind of his younger self with a wit and vocabulary that is anything but childlike.

This introduction into young Pip's
…show more content…
This tension between an urbane, educated, retrospective narrative voice and other, more urgent forms of direct speech is a feature of the book throughout. The dominant tone is that of Pip telling his story, but there are a great variety of other languages, different voices and more eccentric styles within this dominant discourse.

This is not to suggest that Pip's own voice lacks range and variety. As we can see, he can investigate his own childish terror vividly, but he can also recreate Pumblechook's nemesis with the tar-water to great comic effect. Pumblechook's' "appalling spasmodic whooping-cough dance," his "plunging and expectorating" is described from a child's point of view but with an educated adults syntax and vocabulary. As narrator, Pip has a sharp way with irony, particularly when it is directed against his own pretensions.

Despite the humour and the comic episodes, the prevailing tone of Pip's narration is one of resigned melancholy. Sometimes the reader feels like an eavesdropper listening to the mature Pip's reflection on his earlier self. We are persuaded that Pip is explaining the matter to himself as much as to us, his readers. At other times, like the final paragraph of chapter 9, he addresses us more directly. Dickens is at pains to make us share Pip's trials and tribulations; he wishes to
Open Document