Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Does chapter 3 of "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens contain any figures of speech or literary techniques?

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The Charles Dickens classic, Great Expectations, is well-known for its descriptive and figurative use of language. Chapter 3 is no exception. For instance, in the first paragraphs of the chapter, the reader can identify instances of simile, personification, hyperbole, metaphor, and the use of rhetorical questions.

Chapter 3 opens with the following statement:

“IT WAS A RIMY morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief.”

In this statement, the narrator (Pip) employs the use of simile, a comparison of two unlike things, using the words like, as or than. Here, the narrator is comparing the rimy (frosty) dampness of the morning to the tears of a crying goblin. Likewise, a few sentences down, he writes:

“Then, as I looked up at it, while it dripped, it seemed to my oppressed conscience like a phantom devoting me to the Hulks.”

Referencing a wooden finger that directs travelers to the village, the narrator suggests that the mist covering the wood bodes trouble for him, perhaps even future imprisonment on the Hulks. As he nears the marshes and his appointment with the escaped convict, Pip uses personification (attributing human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects) to illustrate the imagined responses that he receives from his surroundings. These inanimate objects and land forms are purported to speak to him, as if they are human:

“The gates and dykes and banks came bursting at me through the mist, as if they cried as plainly as could be, “A boy with Somebody-else's pork pie! Stop him!”

When he arrives in the marshes and discovers another convict, whom he believes to be the “young man” that might kill him if he fails in his task, Pip uses hyperbole, or exaggeration, to describe the extent of his fear.

“I dare say I should have felt a pain in my liver, too, if I had known where it was.”

In this statement, he suggests that he was so scared that his liver would ache if he only knew where to feel the pain. His comment is similar to one in which a person might say, “I was so hungry, that I could eat a...” In each of these statements, the exaggeration is intended for effect.

Other examples from the early portion of the chapter are listed below:

This is an example of metaphor, or the comparison of two unlike things. The convict refers to Pip as a hound, or dog:

You'd be but a fierce young hound indeed, if at your time of life you could help to hunt a wretched warmint, hunted as near death and dunghill as this poor wretched warmint is!”

Finally, in this example, the author uses a rhetorical question, or a question asked for effect rather than a literal answer. In this case, the convict explains to Pip that his desperate circumstances prevent him from clearly distinguishing between real and imagined sounds. When asks the question, "Hears?", he does not expect Pip to respond. Rather, he uses the question to emphasize his plight and his anxious state of mind.

“When a man's alone on these flats, with a light head and a light stomach, perishing of cold and want, he hears nothin' all night, but guns firing, and voices calling. Hears? He sees the soldiers, with their red coats lighted up by the torches carried afore, closing in round him.”

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