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In Great Expectations, how had Dickens foreshadowed Mr. Wopsle’s entering the theater?

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user9241969 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 30, 2013 at 1:31 AM via web

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In Great Expectations, how had Dickens foreshadowed Mr. Wopsle’s entering the theater?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 31, 2013 at 10:17 PM (Answer #1)

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E-Notes has a policy prohibiting answering multiple questions. However, I'm sure all your questions could be answered if you submitted them separately. This would mean on separate days, since you do not have a premium subscription. I have chosen to answer the question about Mr. Wopsle: "How had Dickens foreshadowed Mr. Wopsle's entering the theater?"

In Chapter XVIII, the chapter in which Pip first learns of his "great expectations," Dickens describes the behavior of Mr. Wopsle at the Three Jolly Bargemen. He is reading the newspaper aloud to the group assembled around the fire. Evidently Wopsle is the only literate person in the room, and he is obviously enjoying all the attention he is getting. This sort of scene must have been common in pubs in Dickens' day. Anyone who could read was in demand to read the newspaper to the others present. No doubt, the attention and admiration Wopsle received from these readings helped inspire him with the ambition to become a professional actor.

A highly popular murder had been committed, and Mr. Wopsle was imbued in blood to the eyebrows. He gloated over every abhorrent adjective in the description, and identified himself with every witness at the inquest. He faintly moaned "I am done for," as the victim, and he barbarously bellowed, "I'll serve you out," as the murderer.

This first paragraph in Chapter XVIII clearly demonstrates that Wopsle has ambitions to shine as an actor and foreshadows his venture into that precarious profession.

Mr. Wopsle first appears in Chapter IV as one of the guests at the Gargarys' Christmas dinner. According to Pip's description, Wopsle

. . . united to a Roman nose and a large shining bald forehead, had a deep voice which he was uncommonly proud of, indeed it was understood among his acquaintance that if you could only give him his head he would read the clergyman into fits . . .

Pip makes it clear in this paragraph that Wopsle aspires to something higher than being a parish clerk. So it comes as no great surprise to the reader that Wopsle eventually appears in the novel as an actor. Dickens usually makes him seem a sympathetic, although comical, figure.

Both these chapters, as well as many other early chapters, are partly intended to show the kind of society from which Pip wishes to escape after he has fallen in love with Estella and aspires to become a gentleman. When Pip manages to move into a higher stratum of society, he finds that most of the people he encounters have their own faults, although they are different from the people he has turned his back on.

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