Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens
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How does Dickens grip the reader in the opening chapter of Great Expectations? what methods has Dickens used?

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As Chapter 1 of Great Expectations opens, Pip, the novel's protagonist, is alone in a cemetary visiting the graves of his parents and siblings. Dickens describes Pip as a "bundle of shivers...beginning to cry," and readers immediately feel sympathy for him and his situation.  Soon after, Pip is accosted by an escaped convict who threatens Pip with death if he does not return the next morning with food and a file with which the convict might remove his leg shackles.  Through Dickens' use of vivid imagery (he describes the cemetary as a frightening place for a young child to be) and the dialogue he crafts between the convict and Pip, readers feel a sense of suspense almost immediately after they begin reading. 

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