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Great Expectations ESSAY

 
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The Third M?n
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Joined: 09 Sep 2003
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Location: Chasing Stef around post-war Vienna

PostPosted: 09.13.2003 9:31 am    Post subject: Great Expectations ESSAY Reply with quote

I had to write an essay for English about Dickens' Great Expectations. Right, so I just finished and would appreciate any feedback on it. Tell me it it's good or not, whatever. Here you go:

How does Dickens keep the reader?s interest in the first five chapters?

One of the things that makes Great Expectations so special is its peculiar mix of different genres and themes; it?s a tale that contains horror, romance, mystery, drama, tragicomedy etc. And, not surprisingly, Dickens manages to tell the story with remarkable gusto and knowledge of the material. One would?ve thought that the abundant descriptions were a detriment for the pace, but no; they all flow nicely, and instead are more of a benefit. What Dickens does, oh so skilfully and with that immortal magic of his, is to throw the main character, Pip, that poor little boy for whom we feel the utmost sympathy, into as many situations as possible. Somehow, since he?s the principal personage of the story, it often seems that he?s like the centre of the world, as everything occurs to him. But, of course, this is understandable, and as we see him step into the most bizarrely grotesque and out-of-this-world circumstances (the fight with the ?pale young gentleman? is as random as it is bewildering), the reader is intrigued and exhilarated by the sheer literary power with which Dickens tells it all. Great Expectations is a book that charts the progress of Pip from childhood through often painful experiences to adulthood, as he moves from the Kent marshes to busy, commercial London, encountering a variety of extraordinary characters ranging from Magwitch, the escaped convict, to Miss Havisham, locked up with her unhappy past and living with her ward, the arrogant, precious Estella. And, in the middle of all that, the strangest things happen to him and the more and more weird and wonderful characters that he meets, while Dickens unceasingly switches genres in order to satisfy the demanding reader. It is a book that contains a bit of everything not excluding the usual darkly satirical delicate comical touch. We are always in constant awe because of the things Pip does and the things that they, the people, do to him. Dickens is also a master at maintaining the tension, and he does it with extraordinary fluidity. At the end of each chapter he normally finishes it with a little cliff-hanger, meaning that that we, the readers, are immediately willing to find out what?s going to happen next, thus leaving us hungry for more. He leaves things on the edge of a knife and rapidly arouses our curiosity and attention. And since the novel is characterised by an oddly nostalgic, retrospective tone, there is always someplace in the story where we can relate or identify with Pip?s misadventures, as the novel is practically a tale about growing up and about its pleasures and agonies.

So, on the whole, Dickens gets the reader stimulated by absorbing him or her into this fantastically crafted mix of different elements and components. He captivates us with a spell and it?s impossible to let go. Once you start reading it, you?re hooked and you simply can?t stop (at least in my case). It?s all about the magic of writing, and we can see with sharp clarity that Dickens really knew how to handle it so well, as he both uses and comprehends it with palpable brilliance.



Oh yes, and keep in mind that I'm only 15. ::Gets ready for eternal bashing::
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beltmann
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Joined: 26 Jun 2003
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PostPosted: 09.13.2003 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll bite. I actually teach high school literature, so this is everyday stuff for me. Initial thoughts:

Wonderful adjectives and phrasing. It reads very well, with a strong sense of word choice, sentence fluency, and of course conventions (or grammar and mechanics). (There are a few errors--perhaps merely typos--so go back and edit carefully.) Your voice is also surprisingly strong for such a young writer.

The organization is a little untidy. Are two paragraphs satisfactory for this question? My largest concern, though is in the areas of ideas and content. Your essay makes several claims without offering any substantial support. Here are a few examples:

"The abundant descriptions were a detriment for the pace, but no; they all flow nicely, and instead are more of a benefit." OK, but you're only getting started. Now discuss the benefits--that's the meat of your argument.

"...the reader is intrigued and exhilarated by the sheer literary power with which Dickens tells it all." Explain what you mean by "literary power," with text evidence.

"At the end of each chapter he normally finishes it with a little cliff-hanger." Examples? Why are they suspenseful?

"darkly satirical delicate comical touch" Explain, with text evidence.

And while many of the phrases sound wonderful, they don't actually mean very much in the context of the essay. Others are too generalized or hyperbolic. Examples:

"remarkable gusto"

"immortal magic"

"bizarrely grotesque"

"contains a bit of everything"

"palpable brilliance"

Sometimes the adjective can be a Trojan horse, destroying our writing from within. Writing of course has an aesthetic dimension, but you don't want the flowery, exaggerated language to distort your content.

The concluding thought ("He captivates us with a spell and it?s impossible to let go. Once you start reading it, you?re hooked and you simply can?t stop (at least in my case). It?s all about the magic of writing.") strikes me as superficial, perhaps because it is such a subjective statement. I'm not sure it belongs in an academic analysis, especially when the book's "spell" can be better analyzed with specific text support, rather than mood generalizations.

Still, I'm being very, very tough. If I was looking only for a brief answer to that question and one of my honors sophomores turned in this same essay, I'd probably be impressed.

Eric (aka Mr. B)
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The Third M?n
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Joined: 09 Sep 2003
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Location: Chasing Stef around post-war Vienna

PostPosted: 09.13.2003 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot for the feedback. You're actually the main person I was expecting to get it from, but anyway. That helps a lot, actually, I really appreciate it. I somehow knew I'd get criticised one way or another, though...

Wink
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The Third M?n
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Joined: 09 Sep 2003
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Location: Chasing Stef around post-war Vienna

PostPosted: 09.17.2003 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah well, I got a B+ for it, the highest mark of the class. My English teacher said it was excellently written and very promising, although she advised me to use quotes next time. I'm glad, anyway. Very Happy
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.28.2003 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Third M?n wrote:
She advised me to use quotes next time.


I'm constantly stressing text evidence as well. Anyone can make a claim--the real meat of your answer is how well you defend the claim.

No one received higher than a "B+"? She must be tough!

Eric
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The Third M?n
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Joined: 09 Sep 2003
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Location: Chasing Stef around post-war Vienna

PostPosted: 09.28.2003 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, she's not tough. The thing is, some of my friends don't know how to write a proper essay. I got an A for another commentary I did on the character of Miss Havisham, and again,I was the only one. Most of my friends either got Bs or Cs. By the way, here's the essay (this time around I did actually use quotations, by the way):

In chapter 8 what does Dickens suggest that Miss Havisham is, how and why?

In chapter 8 Dickens once again immediately plunges the reader with no previous warning into the horror genre. Just like Pip, the reader feels discomforted by the unsettling atmosphere which Dickens carefully weaves. ?This was very uncomfortable and I was half afraid.? Pip mentions, while in Satin (?Enough?) house. The typical old mansion, the dark, long corridors, the cobwebs, the wax candles; all these certain horror elements combine to craft a certain sense of intense unexpectedness which lurks everywhere, meaning that Pip is not aware of what?s going to occur next, and nor do we, the readers. We instantly feel Pip?s fear and relate to him because of this, since he?s portrayed as a vulnerable individual who can get hurt just like anyone can.

So when Pip finally encounters the old lady, Miss Havisham, it comes as a shock due to the way he describes her, due to the way she is. ?(?) all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white.? Pip tells us. The way Dickens renders her is to make us feel that Pip is definitely in a horror story as, contrary to his prior beliefs, this is not a fairy story anymore. Miss Havisham is described as an utterly white being because Dickens wants us (although it somehow seems that he forces us) to comprehend that she?s a sort of ghost-like figure. And the fact that she hasn?t seen broad daylight in about ten years (?You are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born??) makes it all the more eerie. Besides, we quickly learn that Miss Havisham has resided in that room for a very, very long time. And when Pip says that ?(?) everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow?, this is rapidly confirmed. Dickens uses that very sentence to convey the passing of time and the decaying of Miss Havisham, as though her rise had already been and now was time for her fall. Another thing that must not be overlooked is the fact that Pip saw how ?her watch had stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had stopped at twenty minutes to nine?. For a second moment we are reminded of the way time doesn?t seem to be significant, as though it had passed and never come back. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes.? The lack of exterior brightness also represents the lack of brightness within Miss Havisham?s soul, as if it?s some sort of space full of black emptiness. Once again, we obtain a severe warning which tells us that there?s more to this woman than meets the eye. In my opinion, she symbolises the thing we (as kids) had always feared; it could be the bogeyman as well as the monster in our closet. Miss Havisham is a personage that makes us feel small, a character who knows what we?re all afraid of, a character that inundates our hearts with ineffable terror. Dickens doesn?t just say it all once; he repeats it and repeats it, hitting our head with a bat until we grasp the mere concept which he wants us to understand: that she?s a monster. She?s also compared to ?some ghastly wax-work at the Fair? which further expands this aspect, and is also illustrated as a skeleton ?that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement.? And as a result of this, or rather, because of this, Pip feels even more scared and he should have cried out, if he could.
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