Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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In Chapter I of Great Expectations, sympathy for Pip is generated through Dicken's characterization of the orphaned boy, who in his quivering and defenseless fright yet displays a certain dignity against the gray convict. Along with this characterization, the employment of pathetic fallacy and imagery, as well as the motif of loneliness serve to lend sympathy to the scene.

  • Pathetic Fallacy

As Pip narrates, he poignantly mentions that he has never so much as seen a picture of his parents.  This mournfulness of situation is reflected in the ambiguity of the marshes and the "memorable raw afternoon toward evening" and the "bleak place [that] was the churchyard" where his parents are buried. Pip narrates that he is immersed in this bleak and confusing setting to which human qualities are attributed,

I knew that the dark flat wilderness beyond was the marshes; and...the low leaden line beyond was the river; and...the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing was the sea; and...the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry was Pip. 

  •  Imagery

Dickens's use of gray imagery also heightens the melancholy of the opening scene and the pathos for Pip. For example, there is the "low leaden line," the "fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a great iron on his leg."

  • Characterization

Added to the imagery and pathetic fallacy is the characterization of the escaped convict and little Pip.  For, "the fearful man" who has been chained, is frightening; he lifts Pip and tilts him as far as possible, threatening Pip if he does not bring him "wittles." Yet, despite his fear, Pip speaks politely and with dignity:

"If you would kindly please to let me keep upright, sir, perhaps I shouldn't be sick, and perhaps I could attend more."

 Further, the coarse man in gray warns Pip to say nothing of him or Pip's heart and liver will be removed, roasted, and eaten. He also cautions Pip that there is a young man who is hidden with him, and this man has a secret way of getting at a boy,

"A boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, ...may think himself comfortable and safe, but that young man will creep his way to him and tear him open." 

Pip promises to procure the food and to return early in the morning with it. He looks around for the second man, "the horrible young man," but sees no signs of him. Frightened, he races home.

  • The motif of loneliness

Both Pip and the convict are lonely; Pip is orphaned, gazing at the dray tombstones of parents he has never known. Likewise, the convict, also immersed in gray as is Pip, is alone, hugging his "shuddering body in both his arms [as he] limped toward the low church wall."

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