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Pip Pip Pip Hooray!

Figurative Language & Symbolism

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Figurative language

 

Similes and Metaphors- Charles Dickens used an innumerable amount of similes and metaphors to help the reader see and live the story he was telling. These comparisons to something everyone could relate to, helped the reader to feel that they too, were part of the story.

  1. “His head was all up to one side, and one of his eyes was half-shut up, as if he were taking aim at something with an invisible gun” (Dickens 73). Almost everyone has seen someone aim a gun, either in person or in a movie, and can relate to the terror Pip felt towards the mysterious stranger.
  2. “Under the circumstances, when Flopson and Millers had got the children into the house, like a little flock or sheep…” (Dickens 186). The comparison of the children as sheep shows their role in the family. They are fed and herded from place to place. The parents/owners seem not to give much thought to them, other than that they obey and give the job of raising their fluffy flock to the nurses/sheepherders.
  3. “…while I was attentive to my knife and fork, spoon, glasses, and other instruments of self-destruction…” (Dickens 190). Pip comically calls his eating utensils “instruments of self-destruction”. Because he cannot use them properly, they are dangerous to both his physical being and social reputation.
  4.  “As I stood idle by Mr. Jagger’s fire, its rising and falling flame made the two casts on the shelf look as if they were playing a diabolical game at bo-peep with me; while the pair of coarse, fat office candles that dimly lighted Mr. Jaggers as he wrote in a corner were decorated with dirty winding-sheets, as if in remembrance of a host of hanged clients” (Dickens 391). What seems to be a commonplace and ordinary scene is made especially gruesome by the use of similes. By comparing innocent items such as sheets with corpses makes the reader shiver with apprehension.

Allusions- Allusions play a role similar to similes and metaphors. It helps the reader relate to the story, by introducing it with something the reader is already familiar with.

  1. ”He never even seemed to come to his work on purpose, but would slouch in as if by mere accident; and when he went to the Jolly Bargemen to eat his dinner, or went away at night, he would slouch out, like Cain or the Wandering Jew, as if he had no idea where he was going, and no intention of ever coming back” (Dickens 112). Most have heard the story of Cain in the Bible or the legend on the Wandering Jew. Both have created a sin, and are forced to become a fugitive of the world, condemned by all as a punishment. Like the other two, Orlick committed a sin by trying to kill Mrs. Joe and in return is rejected and lives a life from job to job.
  2. “The coroner, in Mr. Wopsle’s hands, became Timon of Athens; the beadle, Coriolanus” (Dickens 134). Timon of Athens and Coriolanus were both plays written by Shakespeare. Hoping that his reader’s are familiar with those characters, Charles Dickens is able to tell two stories by just mentioning their names.
  3. “When I had got into bed, and lay there, footsore, weary, and wretched, I found that I could no  more close my own eyes than I could close the eyes of this foolish Argus” (Dickens 367). In Greek mythology, Argus is a hundred-eyed giant. When sleeping, only some of the eyes closed, and the rest remained open. When Pip compares himself to Argus, he is saying that it is impossible to close his eyes.

Irony- There are several types of irony including dramatic, situational and verbal. The irony used in Great Expectations, though, is mainly situational.

  1. Pip thinks that Miss Havisham is his benefactor, and that she means for Pip to have Estella. At the end of the second stage, Pip finds out that the convict that he has long forgotten is actually the benefactor.
  2. Ever since meeting Estella as a child, Pip thinks that becoming a gentleman will make him happy and make Estella love him. He becomes a gentleman and instead of being happy, he is increasingly unhappy. Estella still treats him the same as when he was a poor boy. Not until he realizes that riches doesn’t bring happiness and lives a middleclass life, does Estella fall for him.
  3. Miss Havisham has been training Estella ever since she was a child so that she may seek revenge on males. When her goal has been completed, and Pip has been considerably hurt, Miss Havisham feels remorseful instead of victorious.
  4. Pip pleads Estella not to marry Drummle. Pip feels it to be great humiliation and is totally against their marriage. What he does not realize is that Estella and Drummle’s is what in the end melts Estella’s heart. Only with a real heart, can Estella have any feelings for Pip.

Personification- Personification gives life to the unfeeling and makes the inanimate as important of a character as the ones that breathe.

  1. A frowzy mourning of soot and smoke attired this forlorn creation of Barnard, and it had strewed ashes on its head, and was undergoing penance and humiliation as a mere dust-hole” (Dickens 171). Though just a building, Barnyard’s Inn becomes as real to the reader as Pip. It is given the characteristics of a mourner, dejected and covered with ashes.
  2. “A bell with an old voice---which I dare say in its time had often said to the house, Here is the green farthingale, Here is the diamond-hilted sword, here are the shoes with red heels and the clue solitaire---sounded gravely in the moonlight, and two cherry-coloured maids come fluttering out to receive Estella” (Dickens 272). Everything comes alive in the presence of Estella.
  3. “The closet whispered, the fire-place sighed, the little washing-stand ticked , and one guitar-string played occasionally in the chest of drawers” (Dickens 368). The actions of the objects in Pip’s room mirror Pip’s uncertainty and weariness after walking back to London after being rejected by Estella once again.
  4. “The crisp air, the sunlight, the movement on the river, and the moving river itself---the road that ran with us, seeming to sympathize with us, animate us, and encourage us on---freshened me with new hope” (Dickens 439). On the day of the escape, everything is radiant and joyful.  The road and the river even seem to be accompanying them on their journey.

 

 

 

Symbolism

 

Weather: Dickens often uses weather as a forbearing to what is to come. Many times bad weather and mists accompany or precede menacing events.

  1. “The mist was heavier yet when I got out upon the marshes, so that instead of my   running at everything, everything seemed to run at me” (Dickens 15). Already feeling guilty and terribly frightened, the mists reflect Pip’s feelings about meeting the convict again.
  2.  “Beyond town, we found a heavy mist out, and it fell wet and thick… It was very dark, very wet, very muddy, and so we splashed along… ‘There’s something wrong,’ said he, without stopping, ‘up at your place, pip. Run all!’” (Dickens 177-119). The fall of Mrs. Joe’s reign over the household is foreshadowed by both mists and suffocating mugginess.
  3. “It was wretched weather; stormy and wet…a vast heavy veil had been driving over London…So furious had been the gusts that high buildings in town had had the lead stripped off their roofs; and in the country, trees had been torn up, and sails of windmills carried away; and gloomy accounts had come in from the coast of shipwreck and death. Violent blasts of rain had accompanied these rages of wind, and the day just closed as I sat down to read had been the worst of all” (Dickens 314). The weather before Magwitch’s revelation is especially tormenting. Finding out the truth about his benefactor crushes his hopes of being meant for Estella. In addition to this desolation, the convict’s arrival brings much trouble for both Pip and the convict himself.
  4. “…the day came creeping on, halting and whimpering and shivering, and wrapped in patches of cloud and rags of mist, like a beggar” (Dickens 354). Again the weather clues us in on the unpleasantly ahead. Sure enough, Pip has a disagreeable run in with Drummle. Also he has his heart broken when he learns that Estella is to marry Drummle.
  5. “It had been a fine bright day, but had become foggy as the sun dropped, and I had had to feel my way back among the shipping pretty carefully” (Dickens 384). A seemingly enjoyable day of rowing, dining, and going to a play turns sour when Pip finds out that Compeyson has been following and watching him.
  6. “There was a melancholy wind, and the marshes were very dismal… It was beginning to rain fast” (Dickens 425-426). Pip should have been warned by the gloomy weather that his encounter with the secret letter writer would come to no good. The weather was proved right when Orlick ties him up and tries to kill him.
  7. “The dismal wind was muttering round the house, the tide was flapping at the shore, and I had a feeling that we were caged and threatened” (Dickens 445). One of the most tragic scenes in the book is backed by the weather. The wind was a premonition of the capture and then death of the dearly loved Magwich, the loss of his money, and in a way, the end of Pip’s great expectations.

Miss Havisham’s dress- “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”  (Dickens 56). The wedding dress that Miss Havisham wears every day represents the grudge that she holds against men. The first time she wore it, she was jilted by her lover, thus creating the start of a long-held bitterness. This hate has atrophied her into a skeleton. She keeps it on while teaching Estella to break hearts. “I knew nothing until I knew that we were on the floor by the great table, and that patches of tinder yet alight were floating in the smoky air, which a moment ago had been her faded bridal dress” (Dickens 404). The burning of Miss Havisham’s bridal dress symbolizes the end of her want to get revenge at all manhood. She finally has realized what she has done and truly feels sorry.

Estella- Estella is the ultimate picture of the life of a gentleman and wealth he always strives for. “I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so, too” (Dickens 60). From the first time he meets Estella, he is ashamed of his common life and wishes to be more refined. “Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque” (Dickens 110).  As he continues to yearn for Estella, he is continuously striving for a more satisfying and beautiful life. Not until he learns to love the life that he has, can he capture Estella’s heart.

Biddy- Biddy is the representation of the simple life Joe and the life Pip once lived. “ ‘If I could only get myself to fall in love with you---’ ” (Dickens 131). Pip desperately wants to be able to love the life he once yearned for, the life as an apprentice to Joe. Still, he cannot help himself and chooses Estella over Biddy, a representation of the lifestyle he truly wants. Only after learning that riches is not what makes a man happy, does he want to return home to marry Biddy.

 

 

The End =)