How Charles Dickens Creates Tension and Danger in the Opening Chapter of Great Expectations

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How does Charles Dickens create tension and danger in the opening chapter of Great Expectations?

The firs chapter of ‘Great Expectations’ establishes the plot outline for the story whilst sill introducing, its main characters, Pip and his world. As both narrator and protagonist, Pip is naturally the most important character in ‘Great Expectations’: the novel is his story, told in his words, and his insights define the events and characters of the book. As a result, Dickens most important task as a writer in ‘Great Expectations’ is the creation of Pip’s character. Pip’s voice tells his story thus dickens must make his voice believably human while also ensuring that it conveys all the necessary information relevant to the plot. In this first section Pip is a young child, and Dickens masterfully uses Pips narration to evoke the feelings and problems of childhood. At the beginning of the novel, for instance Pip at His Parents’ gravestones, a solemn scene which Dickens salvages to make humorous by having Pip consider the exact inscriptions on the tombstones. When the convict questions him about his parents’ names, Pip recites them exactly as they appear on the tombstones, indicating his youthful innocence while simultaneously allowing Dickens to lower the dramatic tension of the novels opening scene. When the convict confronted Pip he horrified him however despite his horror, Pip treats the convict with compassion and kindness using the title sir when answering the man, “Don’t cut my throat, sir”. It would have been easy for Pip to run to Joe or the Police for help rather than stealing food and the file, but honors his promise to the suffering man and when he learns that the police are searching for him he even worries for his safety. Still, throughout this section an aggressive tone continues from the convict adding to the danger of the scene. Pip’s self-commentary mostly emphasizes his negative qualities: his dishonesty and his guilt. This is a characteristic...
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