How does Pip's first-person narration affect the story in Great Expectations?

Expert Answers
ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Allowing Pip to be the narrator of the story allows Dickens to keep the identity of Pip's benefactor a secret and allows Dickens to tell the story from both an adult perspective, as an older person remembering the past might recall his life, and from a child's point of view.
In fact the word Pip is palindrome, a term given to a word that is spelled the same backwards and forwards---as is Pip's last name, Pirrip. Dickens is giving the reader a hint that Pip will tell his story from the beginning to the end but will also be looking back at his story from the end of his life. Pip's last name, "Pirrip", suggests Pip's eventual ripping from what he thought was a fixed position. By including Pip as the narrator, Dickens benefits from being able to tell the story from both a child's and an adult's perspective.

lit24 | Student

Charles Dickens uses the first person present and past spoken method of narration in  "Great Expectations." The middle aged  Pip narrates the events of his life from his early childhood to the present. Consequently the readers are presented with a double perspective simultaneously-an adult looking back especially to his childhood and trying to make sense of the circumstances and the people who have shaped his life and his attitude to it. In Ch.8 for instance,when Pip  visits  Miss Havisham for the first time he is  humiliated by Estella  and Pip remarks: "As I cried I kicked the wall, and took  a hard twist at my hair; so bitter were my feelings."  In the present, Pip the little boy expresses his excruciating agony in a heart rending manner which deeply affects the readers. But the very next paragraph contains the adult and mature Pip's reflections on injustice which are based on and shaped by his childhood experiences: "My sister's bringing up had made me sensitive..........I was morally timid and very sensitive."

It is this 'double perspective' which is unique to "Great Expectations."

 In 1851 Dickens had published "David Copperfield" an autobiographical novel noted for its optimistic outlook on life. However by the time he came to writing "Great Expectaions" in 1861 his family life was in shambles and he had become cynical and so he takes a second look at his childhood in this novel.

kukufa | Student

The use of the First person limited narrator,  allows different possibilities for the author,  in the construction of the novel, and the reader in the perception of Pips drama. “Great Expectations” was written during the age of Realism,  so having a character telling his own story is a plausible way of putting the story in order, giving some information and not other, and making you feel that you are reading the story of a real person, not a character.  Also is a way of avoiding the effect of an external intelligence that can see everything, but chooses not to give us all the information.

Having  Pip telling his own story can help us perceive how he feels about himself, other people and what happens to him in a way that reflects also his own perception of the world. That is, the way he tells and understands his story tells us how he really is. When he first gets Joe’s visit we can learn how he really feels because of the way he narrates the encounter, more than what objectively happens. Then the way he feels about his benefactor changes as he knows more about the man, and so changes the vocabulary he uses to describe the convict.  Also, the way he perceives Mrs. Havisham and her house varies from the fist stage to the last stage of the book. In each of the three stages of Pip’s expectations we can trace the changes in personality much better by analyzing how he tells his story in each.

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Great Expectations

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