What literary devices are used in chapter 42?

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mnietfeld eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 42 Dickens employs devices such as similes, imagery, alliteration, consonance, and repetition. Many of his main points are explained through dialogue between Magwitch, Pip, and Herbert, as Magwitch explains his life story to young Pip.

Similes: comparisons using like or as

  • “I’ve been locked up as much as a silver tea-kittle”
  • “I got acquainted wi’ a man whose skull I’d crack wi’ this poker, like the claw of a lobster”

Imagery: descriptive language dealing with the five senses (often used as visual imagery)

  • “When we was put in the dock, I noticed first of all what a gentleman Compeyson looked, wi’ his curly hair and his black clothes and his white pocket handkercher”

Alliteration: the repetition of initial consonant sounds

  • “Plan Plainer” (of “p”)
  • “the counselor for Compeyson” (of “c”)
  • “spoke to as such” (of “s”)
  • “wiolent passion, likely to come to worse?” (of “w”)

Consonance: the repetition of consonant sounds within sentences

  • “Him and me was soon busy, and first he swore me (being ever artful) on my own book, --this here little black book, dear boy.” (repetition of “s”)

Repetition: the repeated use of words or phrases

  • Magwitch repeatedly calling Pip “dear boy”
  • “but wot caught fright at him, and either drove him off, or took him up. Took up, took up, took up”
  • “Then they looked at me, and I looked at them, and they measured my head . . . they had better a measured my stomach”
  • “a bit of a poacher, a bit of a laborer, a bit of a wagoner, a bit of a haymaker, a bit of a hawker, a bit of most things that don’t pay and lead to trouble”
  • “looks at me very noticing, and I look at him”
  • “Same place. I went to Compeyson next night, same place . . . Compeyson’s business in which we was to go pardners? Compeyson’s business was the swindling . . . All sorts of traps was Compeyson’s business”
  • “So Arthur was a dying, and a dying poor”
  • "Warn’t it him as had been know’d by witnesses . . . And warn’t it me as had been tried before[?] . . . warn’t it Compeyson as could speak to ‘em . . .  and warn't it me as could only say”
  • “She’s got the shroud again. She’s unfolding it. She’s coming out of the corner. She’s coming to the bed”

The large amount of repetition allows Dickens to emphasize the importance of certain ideas. Many of the uses of repetition come from Magwitch in this chapter, as he emphasizes the many tragedies and injustices that he has faced throughout his life. This allows him to encourage sympathy, not only from Pip, but also from the reader. Additionally, the repetition seemingly speeds up the reading, adding rhythm to the story and giving it an almost song-like quality.

Further Reading:
Read the study guide:
Great Expectations

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