Great Expectations Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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What is the significance of the opening scene in Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations?

The significance of the opening scene in Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations is that it immediately establishes readers' sympathy for the protagonist, Pip. In it, Pip is a vulnerable young lad, a seven-year-old living on the bleak Romney Marshes. The grim description of the Marshes only serves to heighten sympathy for the boy.

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Dickens manages to hook the reader right from the start of Great Expectations. The opening scene is a masterpiece of mood-setting that captures our attention with its vivid description of the Romney Marshes with all is cold, damp, and dreariness. This is an inhospitable place, to put it mildly, certainly no place for a small child like Pip. That Pip should live here only heightens the sympathy we’ve already gained from knowing that he is an orphan.

Poor young Pip comes across as the loneliest boy in the world. And his loneliness, the kind that only a child would understand, is driven home in the first major set-piece of the novel, Pip’s terrifying encounter in the churchyard with the escaped convict Abel Magwitch.

As Magwitch descends upon him, Pip is all alone. His parents may be nearby, but they’re long since dead, buried in the churchyard. At this precise moment, Pip desperately needs the protection of an adult. Such protection will indeed arrive one day, but ironically it will...

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