How does Charles Dickens bring the convict to life in Great Expectations and how is atmosphere created in this extract ?  ''GREAT EXPECTATIONS'' by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the graveyard scene of Chapter 1 of "Great Expectations," the atmosphere is bleak and "leaden"--very desolate and lonely like Pip himself.  As Pip picks his way through the "nettles" to the graveyard to visit the sites of his deceased mother and father which accompany "five little stone lozenges," the markers for his five brothers who have also died, he is suddenly grabbed by a formidable man in grey with a "terrible voice."  Pip describes him as

a fearful man in coarse grey with an iron on his leg....A man who had been soaked in water, smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars who limped and shivered and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.

Like the geography of the marsh, the "fearful" man carries the nettles and briars and mud on his person as well.  Certainly, the man seems desperate and menacing to Pip as he asks him questions about his reason for being there.  When he comments upon Pip's "fat cheeks" that he could eat, Pip becomes terrified by the man in grey.  Yet, despite his tilting Pip and shaking him, the boy feels sympathetic toward him.

Thus, in spite of the bleakness, loneliness, and forbidding atmosphere, there is present a innocent and intrinsic kindness towards the "fearful man" whom Pip encounters.

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Great Expectations

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