My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things

Category: Writing & Reading | Type: Discussion | Title: Great Expectations (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: Chapter I

"My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things," as the world passes from a watery blur into identifiable being. 

The evening is "memorable" because it is the inception of Pip's memory, memory being coincident with consciousness. 

The beginnings of the Old and New Testaments converge on Pip, the latter beginning, "In the beginning was the word...." "Pip" is that word. Now, having named himself, he begins to name the essential parts of his world. Naming is something that we all have done and involves our passage into what the psychologist Jean Piaget described as "nominal realism," a feature of a child's cognitive development. Naming confers reality upon the world. Dickens's paragraphs describe a universal phenomenon that occurs slowly and unconsciously for each of us but which he telescopes into a single defining moment, a moment in which Pip is defined through defining.

Naming things individuates them. As Pip names things he also separates himself from them. As he and them come to be, he recognizes his apartness, and hence aloneness. Self-awareness is synonymous with loneliness, accentuated in his case by the seven deaths. Existence hinges on the repeated verb "to be" ("was/were"), a sort of incantation by which the indefinite mass is made to reconstitute itself as "the identify of things."  

If we had no other chapter by Dickens than this opening of Great Expectations, we would be quite certain that we had lost the Shakespeare of English novelists.

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