Imagery in this rich novel takes the form of individual visualizable images, metaphor and other kinds of figurative language, simple and complex allusions to fairytales and other literature, entire scenes that function analogically or metaphorically and set up reverberations throughout the entire text.

1. Dickens characteristically makes heavy use of visualizable images, such as the stopped clock at Miss Havisham's and the handcuffs held up by the soldiers at the end of Chapter 4. “I ran no farther than the house door, for there I ran head foremost into a party of soldiers with their muskets; one of whom held out a pair of handcuffs to me saying, 'Here you are, look sharp, come on!'" Note that these images take the form of real objects in the novel and that the mind of narrator endows them with additional meaning.

2. Entire scenes also function as analogies or metaphors, such as that in the churchyard in Chapter 1 and the scene that opens Chapter 3:

It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window as a pocket handkerchief. Now, I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of spider's webs; hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade. On every rail and gate, wet lay clammy; and the marsh-mist was so thick, that the wooden finger on the post directing people to our village — a direction which they never accepted, for they never came there — was invisible to me until I was quite close under it. Then, as I looked up at it, while it dripped, it seemed to my oppressed conscience like a phantom devoting me to the Hulks.

Note how many different uses of figurative language shape this brief passage, which itself serves as an image and analogy. How does this scene embody Pip's guilty state of mind, hyper-imaginativeness, and sense of existence?

3. Elaborate allusions to fairy and folktales take on reverberations, as in the passage that closes Chapter 38, and so do dreams — see that which ends Chapter 10 and look for other examples.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last Modified 23 October 2002