Pip as narrator

First person narrative

Dickens wrote Great Expectations in the first person so that readers see everything from Pip's point of view and may as a result identify with Pip from the beginning. This mode of narration was unusual for Dickens: he wrote only one other novel David Copperfield (1849-50), in the first person where he made a rather different use of the technique. More on David Copperfield?

The 'rags to riches' motif

Both Great Expectations and David Copperfield use the fairy tale motif of the neglected child brought to prosperity and happiness. However they do so in different ways:

  • David is a child deprived of his rightful middle-class status, which he recovers through his own efforts
  • Pip is granted good fortune by the intervention of an unknown benefactor

In both cases this motif is examined and criticized, particularly in the case of Great Expectations, where Dickens shows how the attainment of wealth does not necessarily lead to happiness.

Third person narrative

All Dickens' other novels were written in the third person:

  • the experiences of all the characters, including the main figures, are presented as if the reader was an invisible observer
  • the narrative voice claims to be omniscient (all-knowing), able not only to give a reliable and truthful account of events but also to enter the minds of many of the characters.
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