What are some examples of tone in Great Expectations?How does each example demonstrate tone?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The emotional coloring or meaning of a work, tone is an important part of the full meaning. Perhaps the best example of Dickens's artful use of tone in Great Expectations is in Chapters 22 and 23 in which Dickens is both sentimental and sardonic, playful and satirical, imaginative and realistic; he even juxtaposes these tones often in single scene. 

---In Chapter 22, Mrs. Pocket, Herbert's mother, is the object of Dickens's satire and comic irony of those who envied the upper-class as she sits reading a book of titles, oblivious to what her young brood engages in while she reads.

I was made very uneasy in my mind by Mrs. Pocket... while she ate a sliced orange steeped in sugar and wine, and forgetting all about the baby on her lap: who did most appalling things with the nutcrackers. At length little Jane perceived its young brains to be imperiled... coaxed the dangerous weapon away. Mrs. Pocket finishing her orange at about the same time, and not approving of this, said to Jane:

“You naughty child, how dare you? Go and sit down this instant!”

“Mama, dear,” lisped the little girl, “baby ood have put hith eyeth out.”

“How dare you tell me so!” retorted Mrs. Pocket. “Go and sit down in your chair this moment!”

2. Also in this chapter, the comic irony of Dickens tone is evinced as in the following passage in which Pip describes the wedding of the Pockets. 

The judicious parent [Belinda's father], having nothing to bestow or withhold but his blessing, had handsomely settled that dower upon them after a short struggle, and had informed Mr. Pocket that his wife was “a treasure for a Prince.” Mr. Pocket had invested the Prince's treasure in the ways of the world ever since, and it was supposed to have brought him in but indifferent interest. Still, Mrs. Pocket was in general the object of a queer sort of respectful pity, because she had not married a title; while Mr. Pocket was the object of a queer sort of forgiving reproach, because he had never got one.

3. There is a sentimental tone when Pip describes the rattled Mr. Pocket,

There was a sofa where Mr. Pocket stood, and he dropped upon it in the attitude of a Dying Gladiator. Still in that attitude he said, with a hollow voice, “Good night, Mr. Pip,” when I deemed it advisable to go to bed and leave him.

4. In the first chapter, there is a rather comical overtone to little Pip's solemn reading of the tombstones. For, when the convict asks him his parents' names, Pip recites them exactly as they are on the tombstone.

5.The dark, threatening scene of Chapter I also sets a tone of foreboding with the "fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg."  The marshes and second convict also serve to lend a tone of mystery, suggesting the reappearance of the convict. 

6. Pip's first visit to Satis House is one in which an ominous tone exists,

 The brewery buildings had a little lane... and all was empty and disused. The cold wind...made a shrill noise in howling in and out at the open sides of the brewery, like the noise of wind in the rigging of a ship at sea.

7. A comic tone exists when Pip visits Wemmick's home, especially when Wemmick lights "the Stinger," the cord to the cannon that he fires for his Aged Parent.

8. Of course, there is a remorseful tone to Pip's analyses of his behavior after Joe's visit. (27)

9. Reverent of the nobie dignity of Magwitch (56)

10. Romantic sentiment in the last chapter.

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Great Expectations

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