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In Great Expectations, elaborate on the quote "Hold your noise!" referring to a technique?

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted March 9, 2013 at 6:40 PM via web

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In Great Expectations, elaborate on the quote "Hold your noise!" referring to a technique?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 10, 2013 at 8:34 AM (Answer #2)

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The words of a character are often a great tool in the technique of characterization.  Certainly, in nineteenth century England, one's diction and dialect placed a person into a certain social class.  With the convict's harsh invective against the crying orphan, Pip, there is the indication that this coarse man has lived a life devoid of sympathies himself, for he knows not how to display any to others. He is 

A fearful man, all in coarse gray,...who limped and shivered, and glared and growled, and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.

Further, he calls Pip a "young dog" and turns him over and shakes him.  Instructing the boy to bring a file and "wittles," the convict cruelly threatens Pip with a young man who has a secret method of cutting a boy's heart and liver.

The passages from Chapter I of Stage I of Great Expectations that illustrate character also exemplify the didacticism of Charles Dickens that is often extravagant at times. For, here in this opening chapter of pathetic fallacy, the ambiguous and cold,gray mists of the marshes are in harmony with Pip's heart; on the other hand, the ill-treated Magwitch, the convict, whose childhood was spent as a gamin of the streets, a child who wanted any kindness, has no such sympathy for Pip because he himself has never been shown any. Instead, he has had to "hold the noise" of crying as it was an act of futility in his childhood. 

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

Posted March 10, 2013 at 6:39 AM (Answer #1)

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This quote comes from the opening chapter of this book, and with these words the character of Magwitch is introduced into the novel. The sudden introduction of his voice, which is the first indication that the reader and the youthful Pip receives of his presence, makes his appearance both a surprise and somewhat terrifying:

"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil, or I'll cut your throat!"

In terms of the opening phrase, to modern readers the use of the word "Hold" in order to indicate a ceasing of noise is slightly peculiar, because that word is not used in this way in today's world. This phrase therefore is an example of dialect, as it reflects both the way that Magwitch spoke himself but also the way English was used in the time of Dickens. The use of the verb "Hold" almost presents an implied metaphor as the noise is imagined to be something that can be held and covered in Pip's hands, and therefore silenced. This phrase therefore captures the way that English has changed since this time in history, and is therefore an example of dialect.

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