Great Expectations

Why would you think there is a sudden interposed entry of a convict?

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Dickens introduces us immediately to Pip, who serves as both the young protagonist of Great Expectations and the story's narrator looking back on his own story as an adult. With this two-level approach, Dickens leads the reader through young Pip's life with the immediacy and surprise of a first person narration while at the same time guiding with an omnipotent narrator who knows how it will all turn out. The adult narrator Pip will foreshadow future events throughout the story by using signs and symbols.

Dickens uses this duality to great effect in the first chapter, where we are personally introduced to Pip as if we were in a pleasant conversation with him: "I give Pirrip as my father's family name..." Immediately after this, however, we are thrown into the point of view of a terrified young child being mauled by an escaped convict.

The narrator Pip then presents an interesting, and prophetic, relationship between the boy and the bullying man. At first, the relationship appears to be based solely on power and fear. The man yells at the boy only to get what he wants, a file and some food, and the boy only responds for fear of his life. And yet, after they part, the young Pip keeps looking back at the man as he walks alone into the marshes. The image of the man holding his arms around him, alone on the horizon save a pole associated with the death of criminals, is strikingly familiar to the initial image of young Pip, holding himself in the cold, alone in the churchyard with the stones of his dead parents. For a moment, then, the relationship seems to warm. They share a common loneliness and a common marginalization from society, the orphan and the escaped convict. Even while he is afraid, Pip instinctively displays a sympathetic reaction.

This initial meeting, between a small boy and a convict, will develop into the central relationship in the book.