Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Symbolic Setting or the Significance of the Setting of 'Great Expectations'

The setting establishes the mood in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. The opening pages of the novel set a gothic mood. Charles Dickens opens the story with a young boy in a graveyard. It is dark, dank and terrifying, and "growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry is Pip.Then, an evil convict pops out at Pip threatening his life unless he brings him food and a file. The dark, creepy graveyard sets the evil scene for this to occur. Miss Havisham is an evil woman who lives in a house "of old brick, and dismal, and had many iron bars to it." This sets an eerie and strange mood to the story and almost a feeling of wonder, for who would live in a house like the one described. The mood of the story is often set by the setting, as was the case in this novel.

The setting can tell many characteristics about the character that lives within. Charles Dickens creates settings that are like subtle characters. Though not named, these "characters" have a big impact on the story. Pip's kind brother-in-law, of which he lives with, was a blacksmith. "Joes forge adjoined our house, which was a wooden house, as many in our country were." (671). Pip's family is a common one.

They do not have an exquisite home or a great deal of money, they were just like everyone else: common. Joe's forge is a good place. Joe says that there is always room at the forge for Pip though his sister wished to turn him away. The forge tells of Joe's warmth and kindness. Though he may be average, he has a big heart. Miss Havisham is an evil person, who lives in the past. Her house is also evil. "the first thing I noticed was the passages were all dark, and only candle lighted us." (688). Her home is dark and invested with old, dreadful memories that haunt Miss Havisham. These memories turn her evil. Estrella is a young girl that lives with Miss Havisham. She carries the candle through the dark passages, so she is even the slightest bit good, though she hurts Pip emotionally, physically, and mentally. The setting can tell the reader much about a character.

The setting of a story can further or support the theme. One theme in Great Expectations is that even a good person will do evil things when exposed to evil. Pip is a young innocent boy who is scared into stealing from his family by an evil convict. This happens on the graveyard, an evil place, where a good young boy begins to loose his innocence. Estrella is a young girl who lives with Miss Havisham, an evil person.

Miss Havisham's home is dark and the only light comes from a candle that Estrella carries. This symbolizes that Estrella is the only good in the house even though she is now almost fully corrupted by the dark enveloping her candle, Miss Havisham. She enjoys abusing Pip even when she realizes he likes her. She hits him and puts him down, telling him that he is common. Miss Havisham tells her to break his heart and she accomplishes this goal. Miss Havisham corrupts the innocent Estrella. The setting supports the theme of a good person will do evil acts when exposed to evil.

The setting is an important part of a novel. It helps the story progress. The setting helps the reader visualize where and when the story takes place. The setting establishes the mood of the entire story. Charles Dickens uses places like characters that tell about the inhabitant. The setting is also used to advance the theme. The setting of a story plays an important part in the narration of a story.