Analysis of realism in Great Expectations
Opening chapters; that crucial alchemy of an author’s writing skill and narrative force which may cause us to either close the book or turn the page, must have impact. My own preference is for realism and this is which I wish to discuss.
By ‘realism’, I mean, how we, the reader are drawn into a narrative, perceive it credible and empathise with characters. This, I consider, to be the hallmark of a
successful novel. Such as novel is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The opening chapter of Great Expectations shows how the narrative technique of the author, using the first person, brings the reader close into the life of young Pip.
The narrator is adult looking back over his life and so is able to exercise adult judgements about himself, saying he was ‘a childish conclusion’ of his young self to imagine his dead mother ‘freckled and sickly’ on the basis of the gravestone inscriptions. This suggests that the narrator has delved deeply into infantile perception of how, he imagined a mother he had never seen, to be. This first insight into the personality of Pip draws us nearer to him, empathising with him and his story.
A mature narrator speaks but what he sees, he sees through the eyes of a child.
This distancing affect, pulling us back to the adult narrator’s perspective and plunges us into the story proper. The narration is past tense but moves swiftly to ‘a memorable raw afternoon towards evening’, when the boy Pip realised ‘the identity of things’, and recalled himself as what the narrator goes on to call a ‘small bundle of shivers’. This shift to the continuous tense brings the experience of feeling like a fragmented individual at the mercy of the elements right up into the present of its telling.
Consequently, this narrative approach, with its rhetorical immediacy, allows the reader to come close to the main character through different perspectives in time. It shows how a narrative can...