In Chapter 1 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens contrast the convict and Pip?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The contrast between Pip and the convict in Chapter 1 could not be more pronounced.  The author, Dickens, presents Pip as a "small bundle of shivers growing afraid...and beginning to cry", helpless, frightened, and innocent.  The convict, in contrast, is "a fearful man" who "glare(s) and growl(s)"; he is rough, malevolent, and threatening.  When Pip first encounters the convict, the man immediately establishes his physical dominance over the boy, "seiz(ing) (him) by the chin", then turning him upside down to empty his pockets.  Pip first begs the convict not to cut his throat, then helplessly submits as the convict turns him over and tosses him around and about, hoping that "wittles" or perhaps money will be spilled from his pockets.

Dickens portrays the convict as almost bestial, and Pip as a small and helpless prey.  Pip is "undersized, for (his) years, and not strong", and the convict entertains the possiblity of eating his "fat cheeks", and having his "heart and liver out".  The convict holds the power of life and death over the young boy, and emphasizes this fact by taking him "by both arms, and tilt(ing) (him) back as far as he could hold (him)", as his eyes look menacingly down at him.  Pip is "dreadfully frightened", and "giddy" from being thrown around so, and has no choice but to cling to his tormentor "with both hands" to keep from being sick. 

The convict, exercising his advantage, commands Pip to bring him a file and some food in the morning, and threatens him with a gory death if he does not comply.  The convict says,

"you do it...and you shall be let to live.  You fail...and your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate" (Chapter 1).

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Great Expectations

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