Fall 1962 • Vol. XXIV No. 4 Nonfiction |

Fire, Hand, and Gate: Dickens’ Great Expectations

Great Expectations opens on a raw afternoon in a nettle-choked churchyard. Pip stands before the graves of his father, mother, and five brothers. For the first time in his young life he is truly conscious of himself and the world about him, and at this fateful moment a terrible convict with a great iron upon his leg starts up from among the graves, seizes him, and turns him upside down. Through his inverted legs, Pip glimpses the church steeple; then the whole church revolves, and he sits trembling on a high tombstone. A few moments later the convict again tilts the giddy boy until, with a last tremendous dip a roll, the church once more jumps over its weathercock and little Pip is returned to the tall gravestone. Terrified by the convict and his fierce threatening, but pitying him also, Pip makes a solemn compact with him. After the compact is sealed, the boy runs across the lonely marshes toward his home and the glowing forge. The marshes, intersected here and there with dykes and

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