Narrative techniques


The novel reads progressively forward:

  • many comments refer to previous incidents, but there is little anticipation of future events
  • this is partly because Dickens was writing a weekly serial and therefore had good reason to keep his readers wondering what was to come
  • occasionally, however, Pip hints that an especially important event in his life is about to occur and this would no doubt make Dickens's readers even more impatient for the next episode.

The voice of the adult Pip

Dickens' narrative approach relies a great deal on the adult Pip's comments on the young Pip's words and actions:

  • the reader is made aware that the older Pip has achieved a different moral and social view that allows him to judge his younger self
  • throughout the novel therefore, the reader is aware of an underlying momentum and purpose in the story of Pip's development, even if it is not fully revealed until the end.

Shifting perspectives

The narrative style is complex:

  • Dickens can switch from a childish description to an adult comment and back again within a sentence
  • the opening chapters are full of a child's fears, yet we are also shown Pip's opinion of the adults who tease and torture him at Christmas dinner (look at Ch. 4; Vol. 1, Ch.4 to see how this is achieved).


Pip's experience and use of language reflects the changes in his circumstances and surroundings:

  • at Satis House, he hears language very different from the conversation he has heard previously and soon he is talking in the same way himself – see the description of the fight he has with Herbert (Ch. 11; Vol. 1, Ch. 11)
  • in London, Pip hears a different language again – see his conversation with Wemmick (Ch. 24; Vol. 2, Ch. 5)
  • by the time Pip and Herbert discuss their spending in Ch. 34; Vol. 2, Ch. 15, their high-flown words show young men who have a high (but inaccurate) opinion of their place in the world
  • when Pip sets out to take Magwitch to safety (Ch. 54; Vol. 3, Ch. 15), the language is more spacious, reflecting the relief he feels at finally doing something to save his friend.
  • All these developments are interspersed with the highly individual speech of characters such as Wemmick or Mr. Wopsle.
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