How does Dickens create an atmosphere of fear and tension as well as empathy for Pip in chapter 1 and 8 of Great Expectations?Talk about chapter 1 and 8 how tension, fear and empathy build up for...

How does Dickens create an atmosphere of fear and tension as well as empathy for Pip in chapter 1 and 8 of Great Expectations?

Talk about chapter 1 and 8 how tension, fear and empathy build up for Pip. Include the graveyard scene in chapter one with the convicts.

Asked on by htyellow

1 Answer | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The answer to this question lies in the gothic setting of both the graveyard scene (a typical gothic ingredient) and also Satis House.

In Chapter 1, sympathy is evoked with the poignant picture of Pip weeping over the graves of his dead family, clearly endearing him to the reader. Also, the landscape is described as the "dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard". Suddenly, a stranger pops up from behind a tombstone, as we can only imagine what a young Pip would have made of this event - the rise of the dead, perhaps? Surely, when Magwitch goes, in Pip's imagination there is something clearly horrific in his leaving:

As I saw him go, picking his way among the nettles, and among the brambles that bound the green mounds, he looked in my young eyes as if he was eluding the hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a twist upon his ankle and pull him in.

Lastly, the inclusion of the gibbets at the end of the chapter all combine to create a gothic, brooding and menacing atmosphere, with the possibility of death never to far away. Important to note as this is the first Chapter of the novel, and therefore sets the scene for everything that is to follow.

In Chapter 8, the description of Satis house is very similar, with its darkened rooms with "no glimpse of daylight." The appearance of the faded and yellowed Miss Havisham in her faded and yellowed wedding dress only excites curiosity and anticipation, and again we see here a deliberate gothic overtone with Pip's first impressions of her:

Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me.

In the person of Miss Havisham therefore, the border line between dead and alive seems truly blurred: a central preoccupation of the Gothic.

To examine how sympathy is evoked for Pip, you need look no further than the condescending treatment he receives at the hands of Estella, and the way that she rejoices in her discomfort and the ability she has to embarrass him:

I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, sorry - I cannot hit upon the right name for the smart - God knows what its name was - that tears started to my eyes. The moment they sprang there, the girl looked at me with quick delight in having been the cause of them.

Estella's character is thus established in her first appearance as a character that rejoices in hurting and causing pain in others, and we as readers are made to sympathise with Pip in his position.

We’ve answered 317,506 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question