Pip is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. Events are recounted first hand through the eyes of a child and the impacts of events on the reader are heightened as a result. However, Pip is also describing events in retrospect; we see the story unfold not only from the fresh viewpoint of a child, but also with the hindsight of maturity. This adds to the credibility and causes his thoughts and feelings to seem more real and sincere. The first few paragraphs of Great Expectations establish with immediacy the sad plot of the orphan Pip.
It briefly describes how he came to be called Pip, with his fathers family name being Pirrip, and his Christian name being Philip. He says my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer. Instantly this gives us an indication that he is only young and his childish speech patterns are a warming characteristic, showing his innocent nature immediately and effectively. Also, the name Pip can be associated with things tiny and minute, such as a pip in an apple, or a pipsqueak.
He tells the reader he has never known his parents when he says I never saw my father or my mother¦ , and he is completely alone in a desolate cemetery trying to imagine what they looked like. Again, we are led to believe Pip is young from when he mentions how he drew a childish conclusion¦ Here is talking about how he imagines what his mother and father would look as they died shortly after his birth, long before the days of photographs. Pip then describes the five little stone lozenges arranged beside the graves, which belonged to his five little brothers.
This tragic story hits the reader immediately and no other introduction is needed, since this situation is at once compelling and dramatic. Dickens is almost giving the reader no choice but to sympathise with Pip, as if his sole purpose as a character in the early paragraphs is to provoke this compassionate reaction. This short passage in which Pip is describing his unknown family conveys an intimate process in which his thoughts mingle with his perception of the outside world.
We are inside Pips mind, sharing his consciousness, a process which Dickens uses to heighten the meaning of Pips thoughts and words to great effect. Another crucial piece of information we pick up from the second paragraph is that he now lives with his sister Mrs Joe Gargery. The language here is extremely formal as he refers to his own sister who has brought him up as Mrs Joe Gargery. From this we can interpret that Pips sister hasnt been particularly caring towards him and this only makes the reader pity him even more. Pip says that his house is a mile or more from the church.
This indicates he is allowed to wander through the marshes, alone, quite a distance from his house which reinforces the fact that his sister has no major concern for his well being. The idea of this young, lonely, and practically abandoned child never having experienced feelings of affection or love towards them is saddening in the extreme, and Pips vulnerability is brought to the forefront here. In the third paragraph Dickens displays mastery of setting and tone in these first few moments, describing vividly the marshes surrounding the small village.
Pip says that My first most vivid and broad impression of things¦ on a memorable raw afternoon¦ The word vivid is used to create the impression that this afternoon sticks out clearly in his memory and that its in contrast to other events which have been forgotten and are less clear in his mind. His use of the phrase raw afternoon could mean two things, either that the afternoon was natural and untouched or that the events that took place were coarse or harsh in the eyes of Pip. He goes on to describe this bleak place overgrown with nettles and the dark flat wilderness intersected with dykes and mounds¦
Amidst this lonely and serene environment young pip turns into a small bundle of shivers and begins to cry. The fact that he is crying emphasises how vulnerable, and fragile he is and shows that he dislikes the environment in which he is living. The social and physical aspects of the environment have parallels, such as how Pip describes it as bleak and dark as if he feels constrained and is imagining what the world outside his village is like. This fits in with him feeling alone and conjuring up images of his father and mother in his imagination.
All of these reasons make the reader almost emotionally attached to Pip, hoping that he succeeds and becomes happier. In the same paragraph, Pip mentions his five little brothers and this time he gives the names of them all, Alexander, Bartholomew¦ By giving them an identity the impact their deaths have on the reader is heightened massively, they are no longer just five small lozenges in the ground, images of five small children spring to mind and they become almost tangible to the reader. Also, the thought that Pip could have had five brothers for company reminds you of his loneliness and brings his troubles back to mind.