Use of Humour in Great Expectations

Dickens is very apt in using humor and his novel Great Expectation is full of the humorous elements which greatly delight us. Dickens produces humor by describing some amusing sense or characters which provoke laughter. Dicken’s use of humor makes the novel more appealing to the reader.

Dicken’s art of characterization is the source of much of his humor. He puts his characters into some incidents which provoke character. Early in the novel there is a chapter in which a Christmas dinner party given by Mrs Gargery has been described. The whole chapter has been written in a humorous vein. For example Joe Gargery offers gravy to Pip secretly. Each time Pip is rebuked or snubbed by Mrs Gargery or by any of the guests. Again the manner in which Joe Gargery narrates the story of his life to Pip is very amusing. We also have an amusing description in this chapter how Mrs Gargery prepares Pip to accompany Uncle Pumblechook to Miss Havisham’s house. She pounces upon Pip like an eagle on a lamb. She squeezes his face into wooden bowls in sinks, and his head is put under taps of water-butts. He is “soaped and kneaded ad toweled and thumped and harrowed and rasped.” Joe and Mrs. Joe have a comedic relationship in the way she pushes him around, and Joe himself is funny when his country ways clash with Pip's newfound class. Wemmeck and his father (Aged P) are probably the most humorous characters. Wemmeck is always doing something quirky, and his wedding provides comic relief near the end of the novel while so much drama is happening. As Wemmick and Pip enter the Church, Wemmick says: “Here’s Miss Skiffins. Let’s have a wedding.” He refers to his father as his “Aged Parent”.

Dickens describes the physical features of a character in such a grotesque way that it provokes laughter. Uncle Pumblechook is describes as “a large, hard-breathing, middle-aged, slow man, with a mouth like a fish, dull staring eyes, and sandy hair standing upright on his head.” Mr. Wopsle is a man who has “united to a Roman nose and a large shining bald forehead”. In the same way, Mr. Jaggers is a burly man and Wemmick has a post-office like mouth. Dickens particularly distorts the appearance of two of his women characters. Miss Havisham has an unsavory appearance. Mrs Joe has an offensive appearance and behavior, which provides much of the humor.

Dickens takes delight in presenting comic set-piece scenes. Mrs. Joe uses without provocation to punish both her young brother, Pip, and her husband, Joe, in the beginning of Great Expectations.
The behavior, mannerism and speech of Joe Gargery are treated with humor. Joe’s manner of telling his past and his faulty words and grammar are humorous. The mannerism of Jaggers also produces humor. His awe-inspiring personality, his use of handkerchief and his washing hand with scented soap are amusing.

There is much humor in the manner in which Pip and Herbert sits down to prepare memoranda of their debts. It is quite amusing to find Pip making a provision for marginal increases in the total of his debts. There is humor also in the manner in which Mr. Pocket’s anxieties are described. “In the mean time Mr. Pocket grew grayer and tried oftener to lift himself out of his perplexities by the hair.” This refers to a mannerism of Mr. Pocket who, in his troubled moments, used to try to rise from his chair with his hands clutching his hair.”

Thus Dickens shows extraordinary skills in his use of humor. The novel is pervaded by Dicken’s sense of humor. He can make his readers laugh at a character or a scene. His originality in presenting humor is interesting.