Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Can you provide examples of personification and pathetic fallacy from Chapter I of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?

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The use of pathetic fallacy is an old poetic practice of associating human reponses or feelings to nature; in fact, this literary technique is not dissimilar to personification which gives to inanimate objects and animals the qualities of people.  In Chapter I of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, there are both overt and suggestive instances of pathetic fallacy and personification:

PERSONIFICATION

  • When Pip looks at the tombstone of his parents, he learns "on the authority of his [father's] tombstone" that Pirrip is his "family name," or last name. Here the tombstone has a human quality of authority.
  • Pip refers to the sea as a "distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing."
  • In describing the convict, Pip gives nature human qualities.  For instance, the mud has "smothered" him; he has been "cut" by flints.

PATHETIC FALLACY

  • There is a suggestion of pathetic fallacy in the way in which the grey convict matches the foggy marshes that also shiver is grey.
  • The convict's way of holding, tilting, and shaking Pip is much like the rolling sea:

After each question he tilted me over a little more, so as to give me a greater sense of helplessness and danger.

.....He tilted me again...He gave me a tremendous dip and roll.

Certainly, this first chapter establishes the mournful impressions of the foggy marshes which become the site of much of Pip's guilt througout the novel.

 

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