In Great Expectations, what interesting words and phrases does the writer use to describe the setting?  Why are these words and phrases effective? 

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although the beginning of Great Expectations doesn't abound with paragraphs describing the setting, Dickens achieves a perfect description of a desolate landscape in just a few short words and phrases.  We first hear of the setting being desolate and the mood being ominous within the first few lines when Pip mentions his last name "on the authority of his [father's] tombstone" (1).  Further, Dickens describes this graveyard as a "bleak place overgrown with nettles" with a "dark flat wilderness beyond" and even refers to the ocean as "the distant savage lair" (2).  Dickens begins depicting the lonely setting with the use of very interesting and unusual nouns like "lair" and "nettles" and "wilderness."  However, it is the use of poignant adjectives here such as "bleak," "overgrown," "dark," "flat," "distant," and "savage" that succeed in giving the setting its desolate flair.  Further, near the end of the first chapter, Dickens enters the realm of figurative language by using metaphor to finalize the setting of the marshes as "a long black horizontal line" and the sky as "a row of long, angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed" (5).  Therefore, the use of pertinent nouns, adjectives, and metaphors contribute greatly to Dickens’ success in describing the desolate setting.

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Great Expectations

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