Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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What literary devices in chapter 41?

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Dickens uses a number of literary devices in chapter 41. First, he opens the chapter with narration, meant to set the scene and provide a context for the dialogue that follows. Narration is a literary device that tells a story, and here Dickens tells us that Herbert and Provis (Magwitch) are sitting in front of a fire, and Herbert is hearing the whole tale of Magwitch as benefactor. It isn't necessary for Dickens to retell that saga to the reader, so he simply states that Herbert heard it.

Dialogue is another literary device Dickens uses. It brings readers into a scene more immediately than narration, allowing them to "eavesdrop" on what is happening rather than hearing about it secondhand. This device also helps Dickens characterize the different figures. Magwitch, for instance, uses a more lowly dialect than the more polished Pip or Herbert. Magwitch (Provis) says "look'ee here" and "fur" for the word "for," as well as "ye" to refer to the two young men. This is a way of speaking that shows Magwitch's humble roots, which is not how the other two speak. Likewise, Dickens uses dialogue to show the friendship and affection between Pip and Herbert. Herbert calls Pip by the nickname "Handel" and Pip calls Herbert "dear old boy." These are the kinds of terms that would most likely get left out of a narrative summation of the scene.

The narrator uses simile, which is a comparison employing the words "like" or "as", to describe the methodical way Provis thinks: "as if it were all put down for him on a slate." This helps us understand that Provis has an organized mind.

Dickens uses the literary device of exclamation, emphasizing Pip's state of emotion, by using exclamation points in two places in the following passage. We hear Pip rise to an emotional crescendo by the end of the statement:

“There, again!” said I, stopping before Herbert, with my open hands held out, as if they contained the desperation of the case. “I know nothing of his life. It has almost made me mad to sit here of a night and see him before me, so bound up with my fortunes and misfortunes, and yet so unknown to me, except as the miserable wretch who terrified me two days in my childhood!”

Dickens employs repetition to emphasize that Pip has awoken, not just from sleep but from the darkness of unknowing, by repeating "woke" twice, and likewise, he repeats "fear" twice in the following passage, to emphasize the fear Pip has awoken to:

[I]woke unrefreshed; I woke, too, to recover the fear which I had lost in the night, of his being found out as a returned transport. Waking, I never lost that fear.

Dickens is famous for description, and he uses it below, as well as ending the chapter on a cliffhanger, a device that keeps us reading:

He took out his black pipe and was going to fill it with negro-head, when, looking at the tangle of tobacco in his hand, he seemed to think it might perplex the thread of his narrative. He put it back again, stuck his pipe in a button-hole of his coat, spread a hand on each knee, and after turning an angry eye on the fire for a few silent moments, looked round at us and said what follows.

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