Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, and spent the first nine years of his life living in the coastal regions of Kent, a county in southeast England. Dickens’s father, John, was a kind and likable man, but he was incompetent with money and piled up tremendous debts throughout his life. When Dickens was nine, his family moved to London. When he was twelve, his father was arrested and taken to debtors’ prison. Dickens’s mother moved his seven brothers and sisters into prison with their father, but she arranged for the young Charles to live alone outside the prison and work with other children pasting labels on bottles in a blacking warehouse. Dickens found the three months he spent apart from his family highly traumatic. Not only was the job itself miserable, but he considered himself too good for it, earning the contempt of the other children. After his father was released from prison, Dickens returned to school. He eventually became a law clerk, then a court reporter, and finally a novelist. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, became a huge popular success when Dickens was only twenty-five. Great Expectations was first published as a weekly series in 1860 and in book form in 1861. Early critics had mixed reviews, disliking Dickens' tendency to exaggerate both plot and characters, but readers were so enthusiastic that the 1861 edition required five printings. It was set in early Victorian England, a time when great social changes were sweeping the nation. The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries had transformed the social landscape, enabling capitalists and manufacturers to amass huge fortunes. Although social class was no longer entirely dependent on the circumstances of one’s birth, the divisions between rich and poor remained nearly as wide as ever. More and more people moved from the country to the city in search of greater economic opportunity. Throughout England, the manners of the upper class were very strict and conservative: gentlemen and ladies were expected to have thorough classical educations and to behave appropriately in innumerable social situations. These conditions defined Dickens’s time, and they make themselves felt in Great Expectations. Pip, the novel’s protagonist, lives in the marsh country, works at a job he hates, considers himself too good for his surroundings, and experiences material success in London at a very early age, exactly as Dickens himself did. In addition, one of the novel’s most appealing characters, Wemmick, is a law clerk, and the law, justice, and the courts are all important components of the story. Pip’s sudden rise from country laborer to city gentleman forces him to move from one social extreme to another while dealing with the strict rules and expectations that governed Victorian England. Ironically, this novel about the desire for wealth and social advancement was written partially out of economic necessity. In form, Great Expectations fits a pattern popular in nineteenth-century European fiction depicting growth and personal development, generally a transition from boyhood to manhood such as that experienced by Pip. I have read the Russian version of this book and I liked the plot very much. Then I read it in original version. I especially liked the way author showed Pip’s growth from little boy to a gentleman, also his feelings, changes in his outlooks. The part where he starts to realize that social class or money do not matter, when one has no human values and qualities, is my favorite part in the novel. After reading this book I analysed and uncovered new life-situations for us, the young, and came to the conclusion that in spite of the importance of education, proper behavior, it is not less important to gain and maintain certain values and stay true to them throughout the whole life.
On Christmas Eve of 1812, Pip, a boy aged 7, encounters an escaped convict in the village churchyard while visiting his mother and father's and younger brothers' graves. The convict scares Pip into stealing food for him and a file to grind away his leg shackles. He threatens Pip not to tell anyone and do as he says or his friend will cut out Pip's heart and liver. Pip returns home, where he lives with Mrs. Joe (whose name is later revealed to be Georgiana Maria), his older sister, and her husband Joe Gargery. His sister is very cruel and beats him as well as her husband with various objects regularly; however Joe is much kinder to Pip. She was the one who "brought him up by hand". Early the next morning, Pip steals food and drink from the Gargery pantry (including a pie for their Christmas feast) and sneaks out to the graveyard. It is the first time in Pip’s life he’s felt truly guilty. This is an important event in the book because the convict will never forget the kindness (albeit forced) that Pip showed to him. The convict, however, waits many years to fully show his gratitude. During Christmas dinner with the minister Dan, Mr. Wopsle, Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, and Uncle Pumblechook, Pip and Mrs. Joe's moderately wealthy uncle, no one notices the missing food or brandy until Uncle Pumblechook drinks some brandy and spits it out. Pip realizes that he filled the brandy jug not with water, but with tar-water, (a foul tasting tonic made of pine tar and water often used for medicinal purposes), instead. He had brought some of the brandy to the convict and had to replace it somehow. Pip sits at the table being told how lucky he is by all the relatives all the while in fear that someone will notice the missing pie. However, the moment his sister goes to the pantry to retrieve the pie and discovers it is missing. Soldiers approach the house and ask Joe to repair their handcuffs and invite Joe, Pip and Mr. Wopsle to come with them to hunt for some escaped prisoners from the local jail. As they hunt through the marshes outside the village, they accost two convicts while engaged in a fight. One of them is the convict helped by Pip; the convict freely confesses to the theft of the file and "some whittles" of food in order to shield Pip. The police take the two to the Hulk, a giant prison ship, and Pip is carried home by Joe, where they finish Christmas dinner. A while after Pip’s encounter with the convict, Pip's life returns to normal. He continues to attend the local school which is run by Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, and becomes friends with Biddy, an orphan who was adopted by the Wopsles; even though no more was said of the incident with the convict and he has been absolved of any wrong doing, he still feels guilty for the theft. A wealthy old woman named Miss Havisham asks Pip's Uncle Pumblechook to find a boy of a certain age and bring him to her home to play. Pumblechook immediately selects Pip and brings him to Miss Havisham's, who lives in the village in Satis House. Miss Havisham is a spinster who wears an old wedding dress with one shoe on and has all the house clocks stopped at 20 minutes to nine. She hasn't seen sunlight in years and claims to have a broken heart and just wants to see Pip play cards with Estella, a young girl she has adopted.
Pip's first encounter with Miss Havisham and Estella is a strange one. He discovers Miss Havisham is a shut-in who has boarded up the windows around the entire house so as not to allow any light in. She remains seated in a tattered chair where she instructs Pip to play cards with Estella. Here, Estella is cruel to Pip, calls him names and laughs at him. Miss Havisham seems to delight in this ill-treatment of Pip and asks him repeatedly what he thinks of Estella in turn by whispering it in her ear. Miss Havisham continuously praises Estella for her pride and her beauty. Hurt and angry, Pip leaves Satis House to walk the grounds and cries. Estella brings him food however she begins to make fun of him again as she sees that he has been crying and teases him for doing so. Outside, Pip is accosted by a young man of about the same age who tries to engage him in a fight. He calls Pip out but Pip refuses to fight with him at first, however, after this has gone on for a time, Pip swings at and strikes the young man, knocking him to the ground. The young man repeatedly encourages Pip to hit him even though he is clearly losing and becoming increasingly battered and bloody. After the fight is over, the two part ways; Estella, having seen the fight, lets Pip kiss her, excited that two young men are fighting for her, and he returns to the forge. Pip's first encounter with Miss Havisham and Estella is a strange one. Pip realizes that he is in love with Estella. Pip behaves badly in society (mostly over jealousy of Estella) and squanders his allowance, running into debt. He is rescued on his 21st birthday, when he is notified by Jaggers that he is awarded 500 pounds (equal to £36,000 today) and an increased steady allowance, until such a time as his benefactor will appear and make himself known to Pip. Pip originally believes Miss Havisham is his benefactress. For several years Estella had been studying abroad in Europe. Upon her return, Pip finds Estella much changed and her attitude refined. She apologizes for her earlier cruelty however, seeing Pip's affections warns him that he should not fall in love with her. Pip ignores these repeated warnings as he long harbored the belief that Miss Havisham (as his benefactress) intended them for each other. Estella continues to warn him that her heart is cold and cannot love him and entreats him to take her seriously, but he refuses, still believing they will be married and that her heart is not as cold as she claims. During this time, Mrs. Joe dies. Pip's benefactor turns out to be instead Abel Magwitch, the convict whom Pip helped, who had been transported to New South Wales, where he had eventually prospered and become extremely wealthy. Magwitch left all his money to Pip in gratitude for that kindness and also because Pip reminded him of his own child, whom he believes to have been killed by her mother over two decades prior. However, Magwitch now expects to spend the rest of his life living with Pip in England. Pip, very reluctantly, lets Magwitch stay with him. There is a warrant out for Magwitch's arrest in England and he will be hanged if he is caught in the country. Pip becomes increasingly suspicious of being watched and tells his landlord and all other close people that Magwitch is an uncle by the name of Provis. During these events, it is revealed to Pip that Estella is the daughter of Mr. Jaggers' housemaid, Molly, whom he defended in a murder charge and who gave up her daughter to be adopted by another of his clients, Miss Havisham, in return for his service in allowing her to be acquitted of the charge. Pip later realizes Magwitch is Estella's father. Shortly before Magwitch and Pip are scheduled to flee, Pip receives an unsigned note at his home telling him to appear at the marshes near his old home that night at 9pm. Pip is timid at first, but the letter mentions his "Uncle Provis" and threatens his safety. Pip is lured in by the threats to his benefactor and leaves for the village by carriage immediately. On the marshes, Pip is struck on the head by a blunt object, rendering him unconscious for a period of time. When he awakens, he finds himself bound in a small shack far away from any other residences. It is revealed that both the author of the anonymous note and his attacker is Orlick, who admits that he was in fact the one who attacked Mrs. Joe. Orlick confides that he intends to kill Pip as he was always jealous of young Pip when he worked with Joe and for Pip's intervention with his advances on Biddy. Pip is sure he is going to die though he refuses to cry out or beg for mercy. Pip is rescued by Herbert, a village shop boy . Meanwhile, out of spite for Miss Havisham, Estella has married Bentley Drummle, a boastful rival of Pip's whom he very much dislikes. Pip, Herbert and another friend, Startop, make a gallant attempt to help Magwitch escape, but instead he is captured and sent to jail. Pip is devoted to Magwitch by now and recognizes in him a good and noble man and is ashamed that he had formerly looked down on Magwitch as his inferior. Pip tries to have Magwitch released but Magwitch dies shortly before his execution. Under English law Magwitch's wealth forfeits to the Crown, thus extinguishing Pip's "Great Expectations". During an extended period of sickness, Pip is nearly arrested for his numerous unpaid debts to several creditors however due to his condition, which includes fever, he is not arrested at that time. During this illness, he is looked after by Joe and he eventually returns to good health. Joe leaves early one morning leaving Pip with only a note of well-wishes, believing that as Pip had not visited him in years since, he would not visit him then and that he likely would never see Pip again. Pip is greatly saddened by this turn of events and realizes how thankless and ungrateful he had been over the years. His guilt is compounded by the discovery that the police did not leave to allow Pip time to recover, but because Joe had paid all of his debts in full. Pip returns home to ask Biddy and Joe for forgiveness and to thank Joe for his unprovoked kindness, and unfailing love for which Pip felt unworthy. When he arrives in the village, he finds that it is Biddy and Joe's wedding day. He congratulates the couple, Afterwards, Pip goes into business overseas with Herbert. After eleven relatively successful years abroad, Pip goes back to visit Joe and the rest of his family out in the marshes. Pip meets Estella on the streets. Her abusive husband Drummle has died. Estella and Pip exchange brief pleasantries and Pip states that while he could not have her in the end, he was at least glad to know she was a different person now, changed from the coldhearted girl Miss Havisham had reared her to be. The novel ends with Pip saying he could see that "suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be.
Pip - Great Expectations presents the growth and development of a single character, Philip Pirrip, better known to himself and to the world as Pip. Pip is by far the most important character in Great Expectations: he is both the protagonist, whose actions make up the main plot of the novel, and the narrator, whose thoughts and attitudes shape the reader’s perception of the story. Because Pip is narrating his story many years after the events of the novel take place, there are really two Pips in Great Expectations: Pip the narrator and Pip the character—the voice telling the story and the person acting it out. Dickens takes great care to distinguish the two Pips, imbuing the voice of Pip the narrator with perspective and maturity while also imparting how Pip the character feels about what is happening to him as it actually happens. This skillfully distinction is perhaps best observed early in the book, when Pip the character is a child; here, Pip the narrator gently pokes fun at his younger self, but also enables us to see and feel the story through his eyes. As a character, Pip’s two most important traits are his immature, romantic idealism and his innately good conscience. On the one hand, Pip has a deep desire to improve himself whether educationally, morally, or socially. His longing to marry Estella and join the upper classes stems from the same idealistic desire as his longing to learn to read and his fear of being punished for bad behavior: once he understands ideas like poverty, ignorance, and immorality, Pip does not want to be poor, ignorant, or immoral. Pip the narrator judges his own past actions extremely harshly, rarely giving himself credit for good deeds but angrily castigating himself for bad ones. As a character, however, Pip’s idealism often leads him to perceive the world rather narrowly, and his tendency to oversimplify situations based on superficial values leads him to behave badly toward the people who care about him. When Pip becomes a gentleman, for example, he immediately begins to act as he thinks a gentleman is supposed to act, which leads him to treat Joe and Biddy snobbishly and coldly. On the other hand, Pip is at heart a very generous and sympathetic young man, a fact that can be witnessed in his numerous acts of kindness throughout the book (helping Magwitch, secretly buying Herbert’s way into business, etc.) and his essential love for all those who love him. Pip’s main line of development in the novel may be seen as the process of learning to place his sense of kindness and conscience above his immature idealism. The fact that he comes to admire Magwitch while losing Estella to the brutish nobleman Drummle ultimately forces him to realize that one’s social position is not the most important quality one possesses, and that his behavior as a gentleman has caused him to hurt the people who care about him most. Once he has learned these lessons, Pip matures into the man who narrates the novel, completing the novel.
Estella - Often cited as Dickens’s first convincing female character, Estella is a supremely ironic creation, one who darkly undermines the notion of romantic love and serves as a bitter criticism against the class system in which she is mired. Raised from the age of three by Miss Havisham , Estella wins Pip’s deepest love by practicing deliberate cruelty. Unlike the warm, winsome, kind heroine of a traditional love story, Estella is cold, cynical, and manipulative. Though she represents Pip’s first longed-for ideal of life among the upper classes, Estella is actually even lower-born than Pip; as Pip learns near the end of the novel, she is the daughter of Magwitch, the coarse convict, and thus springs from the very lowest level of society. Rather than being raised by Magwitch, a man of great inner nobility, she is raised by Miss Havisham, who destroys her ability to express emotion and interact normally with the world. And rather than marrying the kindhearted commoner Pip, Estella marries the cruel nobleman Drummle, who treats her harshly and makes her life miserable for many years. In this way, Dickens uses Estella’s life to reinforce the idea that one’s happiness and well-being are not deeply connected to one’s social position: had Estella been poor, she might have been substantially better off. Despite her cold behavior and the damaging influences in her life, Dickens nevertheless ensures that Estella is still a sympathetic character. By giving the reader a sense of her inner struggle to discover and act on her own feelings rather than on the imposed motives of her upbringing, Dickens gives the reader a glimpse of Estella’s inner life, which helps to explain what Pip might love about her. Estella does not seem able to stop herself from hurting Pip, but she also seems not to want to hurt him; she repeatedly warns him that she has “no heart” and seems to urge him as strongly as she can to find happiness by leaving her behind. Estella’s long, painful marriage to Drummle causes her to develop along the same lines as Pip—that is, she learns, through experience, to rely on and trust her inner feelings. In the final scene of the novel, she has become her own woman for the first time in the book. As she says to Pip, “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching. . . . I have been bent and broken, but—I hope—into a better shape.”
Miss Havisham - a wealthy dowager who lives in a rotting mansion and wears an old wedding dress every day of her life, is not exactly a believable character, but she is certainly one of the most memorable creations in the book. Miss Havisham’s life is defined by a single tragic event: her jilting by Compeyson on what was to have been their wedding day. From that moment forth, Miss Havisham is determined never to move beyond her heartbreak. She stops all the clocks in Satis House at twenty minutes to nine, the moment when she first learned that Compeyson was gone, and she wears only one shoe, because when she learned of his betrayal, she had not yet put on the other shoe. With a kind of manic, obsessive cruelty, Miss Havisham adopts Estella and raises her as a weapon to achieve her own revenge on men. Miss Havisham is an example of single-minded vengeance pursued destructively: both Miss Havisham and the people in her life suffer greatly because of her quest for revenge. Miss Havisham is completely unable to see that her actions are hurtful to Pip and Estella. She is redeemed at the end of the novel when she realizes that she has caused Pip’s heart to be broken in the same manner as her own; rather than achieving any kind of personal revenge, she has only caused more pain. Miss Havisham immediately begs Pip for forgiveness, reinforcing the novel’s theme that bad behavior can be redeemed by contrition and sympathy.
Abel Magwitch (“The Convict”) - a fearsome criminal, Magwitch escapes from prison at the beginning of Great Expectations and terrorizes Pip in the cemetery. Pip’s kindness, however, makes a deep impression on him, and he subsequently devotes himself to making a fortune and using it to elevate Pip into a higher social class. Behind the scenes, he becomes Pip’s secret benefactor, funding Pip’s education and opulent lifestyle in London through the lawyer Jaggers.
Jaggers - The powerful, foreboding lawyer hired by Magwitch to supervise Pip’s elevation to the upper class. As one of the most important criminal lawyers in London, Jaggers is privy to some dirty business; he consorts with vicious criminals, and even they are terrified of him. But there is more to Jaggers than his impenetrable exterior. He often seems to care for Pip, and before the novel begins he helps Miss Havisham to adopt the orphaned Estella. Jaggers smells strongly of soap: he washes his hands obsessively as a psychological mech-anism to keep the criminal taint from corrupting him.
Mrs. Joe - Pip’s sister and Joe’s wife, known only as “Mrs. Joe” throughout the novel. Mrs. Joe is a stern and overbearing figure to both Pip and Joe. She keeps a spotless household and frequently menaces her husband and her brother with her cane, which she calls “Tickler.” She also forces them to drink a foul-tasting concoction called tar-water. Mrs. Joe is petty and ambitious; her fondest wish is to be something more than what she is, the wife of the village blacksmith.
Joe Gargery - Pip’s brother-in-law, the village blacksmith, Joe stays with his overbearing, abusive wife—known as Mrs. Joe—solely out of love for Pip. Joe’s quiet goodness makes him one of the few completely sympathetic characters in Great Expectations. Although he is uneducated and unrefined, he consistently acts for the benefit of those he loves and suffers in silence when Pip treats him coldly.
Bentley Drummle - An unpleasant young man who attends tutoring sessions with Pip at the Pockets’ house, Drummle is a minor member of the nobility, and the sense of superiority this gives him makes him feel justified in acting cruelly and harshly toward everyone around him. Drummle eventually marries Estella, to Pip’s chagrin; she is miserable in their marriage and reunites with Pip after Drummle dies some eleven years later.
Themes, Symbols & Motifs
The moral theme of Great Expectations is quite simple: affection, loyalty, and conscience are more important than social advancement, wealth, and class. Dickens establishes the theme and shows Pip learning this lesson, largely by exploring ideas of ambition and self-improvement—ideas that quickly become both the thematic center of the novel and the psychological mechanism that encourages much of Pip’s development. At heart, Pip is an idealist; whenever he can conceive of something that is better than what he already has, he immediately desires to obtain the improvement. When he sees Satis House, he longs to be a wealthy gentleman; when he thinks of his moral shortcomings, he longs to be good; when he realizes that he cannot read, he longs to learn how. Pip’s desire for self-improvement is the main source of the novel’s title: because he believes in the possibility of advancement in life, he has “great expectations” about his future. Ambition and self-improvement take three forms in Great Expectations—moral, social, and educational; these motivate Pip’s best and his worst behavior throughout the novel. First, Pip desires moral self-improvement. He is extremely hard on himself when he acts immorally and feels powerful guilt that spurs him to act better in the future. When he leaves for London, for instance, he torments himself about having behaved so wretchedly toward Joe and Biddy. Second, Pip desires social self-improvement. In love with Estella, he longs to become a member of her social class, and, encouraged by Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook, he entertains fantasies of becoming a gentleman. The working out of this fantasy forms the basic plot of the novel; it provides Dickens the opportunity to gently satirize the class system of his era and to make a point about its capricious nature. Significantly, Pip’s life as a gentleman is no more satisfying—and certainly no more moral—than his previous life as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Third, Pip desires educational improvement. This desire is deeply connected to his social ambition and longing to marry Estella: a full education is a requirement of being a gentleman. As long as he is an ignorant country boy, he has no hope of social advancement. Pip understands this fact as a child, when he learns to read at Mr. Wopsle’s aunt’s school, and as a young man, when he takes lessons from Matthew Pocket. Ultimately, through the examples of Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch, Pip learns that social and educational improvement are irrelevant to one’s real worth and that conscience and affection are to be valued above erudition and social standing.
Throughout Great Expectations, Dickens explores the class system of Victorian England, ranging from the most wretched criminals (Magwitch) to the poor peasants of the marsh country (Joe and Biddy) to the middle class (Pumblechook) to the very rich (Miss Havisham). The theme of social class is central to the novel’s plot and to the ultimate moral theme of the book—Pip’s realization that wealth and class are less important than affection, loyalty, and inner worth. Pip achieves this realization when he is finally able to understand that, despite the esteem in which he holds Estella, one’s social status is in no way connected to one’s real character. Drummle, for instance, is an upper-class lout, while Magwitch, a persecuted convict, has a deep inner worth.Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the novel’s treatment of social class is that the class system it portrays is based on the post-Industrial Revolution model of Victorian England. Dickens generally ignores the nobility and the hereditary aristocracy in favor of characters whose fortunes have been earned through commerce. Even Miss Havisham’s family fortune was made through the brewery that is still connected to her manor. In this way, by connecting the theme of social class to the idea of work and self-advancement, Dickens subtly reinforces the novel’s overarching theme of ambition and self-improvement.
The theme of crime, guilt, and innocence is explored throughout the novel largely through the characters of the convicts and the criminal lawyer Jaggers. From the handcuffs Joe mends at the smithy to the gallows at the prison in London, the imagery of crime and criminal justice pervades the book, becoming an important symbol of Pip’s inner struggle to reconcile his own inner moral conscience with the institutional justice system. In general, just as social class becomes a superficial standard of value that Pip must learn to look beyond in finding a better way to live his life, the external trappings of the criminal justice system (police, courts, jails, etc.) become a superficial standard of morality that Pip must learn to look beyond to trust his inner conscience. Magwitch, for instance, frightens Pip at first simply because he is a convict, and Pip feels guilty for helping him because he is afraid of the police. By the end of the book, however, Pip has discovered Magwitch’s inner nobility, and is able to disregard his external status as a criminal. Prompted by his conscience, he helps Magwitch to evade the law and the police. As Pip has learned to trust his conscience and to value Magwitch’s inner character, he has replaced an external standard of value with an internal one.
In Satis House, Dickens creates a magnificent Gothic setting whose various elements symbolize Pip’s romantic perception of the upper class and many other themes of the book. On her decaying body, Miss Havisham’s wedding dress becomes an ironic symbol of death and degeneration. The wedding dress and the wedding feast symbolize Miss Havisham’s past, and the stopped clocks throughout the house symbolize her determined attempt to freeze time by refusing to change anything from the way it was when she was jilted on her wedding day. The brewery next to the house symbolizes the connection between commerce and wealth: Miss Havisham’s fortune is not the product of an aristocratic birth but of a recent success in industrial capitalism. Finally, the crumbling, dilapidated stones of the house, as well as the darkness and dust that pervade it, symbolize the general decadence of the lives of its inhabitants and of the upper class as a whole.
The setting almost always symbolizes a theme in Great Expectations and always sets a tone that is perfectly matched to the novel’s dramatic action. The misty marshes near Pip’s childhood home in Kent, one of the most evocative of the book’s settings, are used several times to symbolize danger and uncertainty. As a child, Pip brings Magwitch a file and food in these mists; later, he is kidnapped by Orlick and nearly murdered in them. Whenever Pip goes into the mists, something dangerous is likely to happen. Significantly, Pip must go through the mists when he travels to London shortly after receiving his fortune, alerting the reader that this apparently positive development in his life may have dangerous consequences.
Although he is a minor character in the novel, Bentley Drummle provides an important contrast with Pip and represents the arbitrary nature of class distinctions. In his mind, Pip has connected the ideas of moral, social, and educational advancement so that each depends on the others. The coarse and cruel Drummle, a member of the upper class, provides Pip with proof that social advancement has no inherent connection to intelligence or moral worth. Drummle is a lout who has inherited immense wealth, while Pip’s friend and brother-in-law Joe is a good man who works hard for the little he earns. Drummle’s negative example helps Pip to see the inner worth of characters such as Magwitch and Joe, and eventually to discard his immature fantasies about wealth and class in favor of a new understanding that is both more compassionate and more realistic.
In Great Expectations,perhaps the most visible sign of Dickens’s commitment to intricate dramatic symmetry—apart from the knot of character relationships, of course—is the fascinating motif of doubles that runs throughout the book. From the earliest scenes of the novel to the last, nearly every element of Great Expectations is mirrored or doubled at some other point in the book. There are two convicts on the marsh (Magwitch and Compeyson), two invalids (Mrs. Joe and Miss Havisham), two young women who interest Pip (Biddy and Estella), and so on. There are two secret benefactors: Magwitch, who gives Pip his fortune, and Pip, who mirrors Magwitch’s action by secretly buying Herbert’s way into the mercantile business. Finally, there are two adults who seek to mold children after their own purposes: Magwitch, who wishes to “own” a gentleman and decides to make Pip one, and Miss Havisham, who raises Estella to break men’s hearts in revenge for her own broken heart. Interestingly, both of these actions are motivated by Compeyson: Magwitch resents but is nonetheless covetous of Compeyson’s social status and education, which motivates his desire to make Pip a gentleman, and Miss Havisham’s heart was broken when Compeyson left her at the altar, which motivates her desire to achieve revenge through Estella. The relationship between Miss Havisham and Compeyson—a well-born woman and a common man—further mirrors the relationship between Estella and Pip.This doubling of elements has no real bearing on the novel’s main themes, but, like the connection of weather and action, it adds to the sense that everything in Pip’s world is connected. Throughout Dickens’s works, this kind of dramatic symmetry is simply part of the fabric of his novelistic universe.
Throughout Great Expectations, the narrator uses images of inanimate objects to describe the physical appearance of characters—particularly minor characters, or characters with whom the narrator is not intimate. For example, Mrs. Joe looks as if she scrubs her face with a nutmeg grater, while the inscrutable features of Mr. Wemmick are repeatedly compared to a letter-box. This motif, which Dickens uses throughout his novels, may suggest a failure of empathy on the narrator’s part, or it may suggest that the character’s position in life is pressuring them to resemble a thing more than a human being. The latter interpretation would mean that the motif in general is part of a social critique, in that it implies that an institution such as the class system or the criminal justice system dehumanizes certain people.
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Are Great Expectations and ambitions always destined for everyone? In Great Expectations, the central recurring theme is that affection, loyalty, and inner worth is more important than a progressive increase in wealth and social status. Dickens makes this theme evident through the interactions of the characters, and by discovering the idea of wealth and self-improvement (specifically in social classes). The thesis can be discovered in situations such as Pip's awareness of his harsh treatment toward his loved ones, the loyalty that Joe and Biddy continued to have toward Pip, and the emptiness in the life of Estella Therefore, by investigating specific characters and their occurrences with each other it can become quite evident that the theme of loyalty; happiness; and love over wealth is clearly displayed through the novel. At a certain point in the novel Pip came to understand that affection and loyalty is more important than wealth and social status. For example, When Pip came to know that he had inherited a big fortune and that it was destined for him to become an honorable gentleman; he quickly packed for London and left the Forge without saying a proper good-bye. Although, in London when Pip got a very high fever and became ill it was Joe who came back and nursed Pip back to health and even paid off all of his remaining debts. This made Pip realize that even though he was tight and unkind to Joe, Joe still came back and took care of Pip while the rest of his money-hungry "friends" forgot about him. In addition, when Magwitch arrives at London he tells Pip that he is His benefactor. Full of affection and love towards Pip, Magwitch continues to tell Pip how he was the only thing in his life worth living for. Meanwhile, Estella asks Pip to forgive her, he does, and all is well. So the story ends, with grown Pip and a changed Estella both at peace with each other. In conclusion, I thought that this was a very well written book. It took me a while to get into it and understand the plot, but now I see that Dickens wrote Great Expectations with a very complex plot and well described characters. From Joe Gargery to Miss Havisham, I really got to know the characters as if they were people. Every scene in the book felt like real, true to life. Besides, this book highlights actual problems of this century, like staying true to ones principles, trusting people, having the desire to prosper mentally, spiritually. I would describe this book as a delightful story with a sprinkle of mystery and a handful of romance, with a pinch of fun all mixed in. This may be one of the most impressive books I have ever read. It tells the story of a young boy who becomes a man; it shows our Pip (his name) as he truly was. I mean, the author never justified his behaviour, not even when he was weak and offensive. Pip is not a hero, he is just human being. He is not a criminal either, you can say he didn't do anything extraordinary such as save the world nor invent the light bulb. In change, he grew in compassion and gratitude. With him we learn the "worst sides of the human nature"; he loses his fortune, but at the end he accomplishes his "Great Expectations".
Charles Dickens «Great Expectations».