How is Pip's view of the setting from the cemetery symbolic in Great Expectations?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the beginning of the book, Pip is sitting in a cold cemetery staring at his parents’ headstones.  Pip describes himself as “the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry” (ch 1, p. 4).  When he looks out at the marshes, he sees nothing but cold desolation.  This is symbolic of the isolation Pip feels.

When Pip is accosted by the convict, he asks him where his family is.  Pip points to the headstones.  The simple fact is that the boy is sitting alone in the harsh landscape because he has almost no one.

My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. (p. 4)

This establishes the events of this chapter as foundational in Pip’s life.  His encounter with Magwitch not only affected him emotionally, but it also redirected the course of his life because Magwitch gave him his great expectations.