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Analysis Of Realism In Great Expectations

898 words - 4 pages

Analysis of realism in Great Expectations

Opening chapters; that crucial alchemy of an author’s writing skill and narrative force which may cause us to either close the book or turn the page, must have impact. My own preference is for realism and this is which I wish to discuss.

By ‘realism’, I mean, how we, the reader are drawn into a narrative, perceive it credible and empathise with characters. This, I consider, to be the hallmark of a
successful novel. Such as novel is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The opening chapter of Great Expectations shows how the narrative technique of the author, using the first person, brings the reader close into the life of young Pip.
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It shows how a narrative can retrospectively discover a pattern of development in the young man from within. It is a moral focus, perhaps a little typical of Victorian literature and as the novel proceeds, the adult voice plays an increasingly important part. Phillip Pirrip, is the boy’s name but as an infant he can only say ‘Pip’. However, this is not the voice of the boy, but of the man, who can refer with light-hearted irony to the inadequacies of the ‘infant tongue’. This establishes self-identification for the narrator and allows him to proceed with the narrative in a credulous manner.

Moreover, the credibility of narrative is complemented by the adoption of a realistic perspective. What some may consider merely melodrama is in my view realism within the accepted conventions of a Gothic framework. A potent combination of looming gothic threats and established moral codes is juxtaposed with elements of tragic comedy or ironic humour in this opening chapter making it memorable.
One scene in particular shows how the author escapes a charge of melodrama. It is a defining moment in Pip’s life, rendered with touching melancholy when he reads the inscriptions of his dead family on the gravestones. His sense of isolation and fear is suddenly dramatised by the appearance of a gruff fugitive who threatens to murder and even eat him. The eruption of direct speech, “Hold your noise!” as a man ‘started up from among the graves’, takes us directly into the frightening present again. The author presents this ‘ogre’ without narrative...

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