Explore the Relationship between Character and Environment.

Explore the Relationship between Character and Environment.
?It is the habit of my imagination?, wrote one Victorian novelist, ?to strive after as full a vision of the medium in which a character moves, as of the character itself.? Explore the relationship between character and environment in any one or two fictional works of the period.

Both Great Expectations and David Copperfield are characterised by the close relationship between the characters and their immediate environment. This is emblematic of all Dickens? novels, reflecting Dickens? own life, recreating his experiences and journeys, using people and places to symbolise feelings and emotions.
David Copperfield opens to `Pip? in a churchyard on the eerie marshes of Kent sombrely reading his parents? gravestones. Dickens describes the scenery as:

?Dark flat wilderness?intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea? (Dickens 6)

This creates a picture of grey gloominess, which embodies how Pip is feeling at the time, as in the next sentence, he starts to cry. The sea is described as a ?distant savage lair? (6), and the prison ship which is in the distance, on the sea, known as `The Hulks?, Pip describes as ?a wicked Noah?s Ark? (39). This implies that he is scared of the sea, and The Hulks, and as this is most likely reflecting his state of mind, the reader presumes that this is how he feels a lot of the time when he is at home with Mrs. Joe and on the marshes. Home is a very uncomfortable place for Pip, made so by his sister and the contempt she holds for Pip.

In chapter eight, Pip finds himself at Satis House, home of Miss Havisham. Everything that surrounds this place and her life is in decay, rotting before our eyes. The marshes are closely linked to Satis House, the cobwebs on the hedges as Pip goes to visit his convict in chapter three are mirrored in the cobwebs on Miss Havisham?s cake in chapter eleven, as is the image Pip has of Miss Havisham hanging from a beam in the disused brewery recalled from when Pip has the image of a hanging pirate in chapter one. Through doings this, Dickens is enlightening the reader of the links between crime and social oppression in the novel. Pip believes that when he is older Miss Havisham will let him marry Estella and will give him Satis House, and so this becomes his main desire. This represents all that he ever wants ? wealth, status and Estella. Satis House portrays the emptiness of Pip?s desires, a ?ruined garden, a grim, ironic parody of the supposed pastoral qualities of the village?the house in which no emotions are nurtured but the convoluted, stunted and poisonous.? (Schwarzbach 188) To Pip, the weeds in the garden look like ?precious flowers.? (Dickens 255)

The next instalment of Pip?s life comes when he inherits a sum of money and goes to live in London. London plays a major part in all Dickens? novels, as he spent a lot of his time there. The city is, as Pip says, ?ugly, crooked, narrow and dirty? (Dickens 153). The characters introduced to the reader in London include Jaggers and Wemmick. Both of these characters have different ways of dealing with the austerity of London life, Jaggers? being strictly formal, washing his hand of it whenever possible, and Wemmicks? being to keep his home life and his work life completely separate. Dickens? London symbolises guilt and criminality, dirt and deceit. This becomes apparent when Pip visits Newgate, the London Prison. Pip is anxious to get the air of the prison off himself before he meets Estella:

?I beat the prison dust off my feet as I sauntered to and fro, and I shook it out of my dress and I exhaled its air from my lungs?so contaminated did I feel.?

(Dickens 243)

This makes how he feels about Estella evident as well, he clearly thinks of her as being opposite to Newgate, she is pure, whilst the prison is deceitful. However, this is not the case. Estella is the most deceitful character in the novel, but Pip is so in love with her, he does not notice this.

David Copperfield has many contrasting environments within the novel, running right the way through it, and changing each time David enters a new chapter in his life. The first is `Blunderstone?, in Suffolk. Unlike Pip, David?s home is a happy one, symbolised by a pretty garden, pretty mother and pretty house. David lived there in harmony with his mother until the appearance of Mr. Murdstone.

Yarmouth is a very important aspect of the novel, and David first goes there when Peggotty takes him to visit her family. Yarmouth is everything that Peggotty and her family represent; they are friendly, stable and happy. They live in a boat on the beach, which makes it fun, and they create the most opposite image possible to the sea in Great Expectations. The place keeps these attributes throughout, even when the family is falling apart.

Soon after this, David?s mother dies, and he gets sent to work in London at a wine bottling factory. This comes as a shock after living in the country all his life, as ?town life and country life have been seen as an opposition between good and evil, conventionally expressed in the language of disease?physical health of the country opposed to the bodily corruption of the town? (Schwarzbach 19). From then on, London is associated with Mr. Murdstone, mean, black, and grim.

Then begins David?s life changing journey, his running away from London to his Aunt Betsey?s house in Dover. David passes through many places and learns a lot on his way. Dickens probably meant this journey to represent David?s growing up, but it?s also his path back to dependency, whereas in London he was virtually living off his own means, he was then going to his aunts and from then on heavily relies on her to provide money and support. He eventually reaches his Aunt Betsey Trotwood?s, and is welcomed with open arms. Betsey has a nice little seaside cottage, which symbolises comfort and stability, especially after David?s adventures in London. She is very particular about donkeys walking on her front garden, which immediately draws the readers? attention to her garden, when otherwise it may not have been noticed.

?A very neat little cottage with cheerful bow-windows: in front of it, a small square gravelled court or garden, full of flowers carefully tended, and smelling deliciously.? (Dickens 164)

This makes her seem quite prim and precise, and shows that David was well looked after while he was there.

David?s Aunt sends him off to school in Canterbury. There he stays with Mr. Wickfield, Betsey?s Lawyer. Agnes Wickfield, his daughter enchants David from the start. Agnes is ?Beautiful, good, calm?staid and discreet? (Andrews 9). This comes to be the representation of Canterbury, Dr. Strong?s School, Agnes?s house, and his time in education. This portrays David?s maturing self very well, under the steady discipline of Dr. Strong and such people; he grows into a well rounded person. This is in great contrast to Pip in Great Expectations, who has no stable education until he is grown up.

When David goes to London to live there in his own house, he meets Dora, who in contrast to Agnes is ?volatile, playful, and childish? (Andrews 10). This represents David?s time in London, he is exploring himself and the city, and it?s the first time that he is free to do as he pleases. After his short marriage to Dora, in which she dies, he realises how much he loves Agnes, and marries her. This is him realising he needs to settle down at some point.

David?s London is very different to Pip?s London. Their personalities, life styles and states of mind were also complete opposites. David?s London is happy, exciting, profitable, and he has great fun there. Pip?s is probably at its best when he ?endeavours to get his benefactor Magwitch safely out of the country? (Dexter 55). Apart from that it?s dismal, dreary, depressing and generally a bad point of his life.

Dickens? novels were such a great success in Victorian times because travelling was just becoming a possibility, what with developments with transport, and people wanted to read about travelling, journeys and moving around. The Micawbers, in David Copperfield become ?purposeful travellers, emigrating to Australia along with the Peggottys?.? (Slater, 103) Magwitch, in Great Expectations is also for part of the novel, abroad, in New South Wales. This opened up the possibilities for Victorians to travel.

Explore the Relationship between Character and Environment. 8.8 of 10 on the basis of 1055 Review.