Genre conventions in the treatment of Origins in Great Expectations and Frankenstein

Essay by diamondize1 April 2004

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The definition of Realism in Approaching Prose fiction is 'a style of writing that seeks to convey the impression of accurate recording of an actual way of life in a recognisable time and place' (Approaching Prose Fiction p31).

Watt maintains that 'characterization and presentation of background' (The realist novel p219) to be of special importance in this genre.

In both Great Expectations and Frankenstein the reader is led to identify with the characters' struggles and their faults. These are not represented as perfect 'types'. We see Walton's similarity to Frankenstein and his over eagerness to discover, we learn of Pips mistakes, his pretension and misreading of situations. These are deliberately crafted to be more than 'good or evil' and therefore give an impression of reality. In this respect just as the reader has developed through their origins and experience, so has Pip, Magwitch, Frankenstein and the monster. The backgrounds are detailed and identifiable as is the time.

In this sense despite any fantastic events the novels are predominantly realist. Despite this neither book remains strictly constrained within this genre. I will concentrate on how the genre conventions influence the portrayal of the origins of two characters from each novel.

Great Expectations is narrated in the first person by an older Pip reflecting on his younger self. The introduction is made immediately as he tells us not only his full name, but also how his 'infant tongue' created the name he is referred to by throughout the book. The origins of the name which seems to have the symbolic connotations of 'seed', has it's roots in a mundane and believable event.

In one sense Pips origins lie with the gravestones and in the forge, however the origins of the conscious Pip lie, In his own words ; 'My first, most vivid...