To what extent does Dickens employ diction as a device for characterization in Great Expecations?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Diction is an author’s word choice.  One of the clearest examples of diction is in Dickens’s choice Pip as the narrator.  By choosing Pip to be his first person point of view, Dickens is able to use an adult’s words and reflection to describe things a child sees.

Throughout the book, Dickens uses very specific words to describe things.  For example, this quote where he introduces his parents.

As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. (ch 1, p. 4)

He uses the word “likeness” instead of “picture” and “fancies” instead of” imaginings” and “derived” instead of “taken from.”  Each of these words reinforces that Pip is an adult, that he is educated, and that this part of the story is old-fashioned because it takes place in the past.

Diction can also be used to distinguish characters.  When we look at how young Pip talks, as well as Joe and the convict, it is very different from the narration.

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Great Expectations

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