Great Expectations- Essay, Research Paper
GREAT EXPECTATIONS. (Charles Dickens)
By Anne Gilmour. November 1996.
Of the major themes from Charles Dickens novel “Great
Expectations” to be discussed as to their importance
concerning its structure, I have selected “Love” in the
context of human relationships, “Isolation” and finally
“Redemption”. The loneliness isolation brings can only be
redeemed by the loving associate of our fellow man, this is
a two way thing.
“Had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and
will that reverse the appointed order of their maker.”
In isolation the greatest sin we commit against
ourselves and others, is to shun human companionship as Miss
Haversham did. After her betrayal in love she hardened her
heart towards her fellow man. By hardening her heart and
suppressing her naturally affectionate nature, she committed
a crime against herself. Miss Havershams love for Compeyson
is of a compassionate kind, this blinded her to his true
nature, as Herbert remarked, “too haughty and too much in
love to be advised by anyone.” At Compeysons desertion her
anger and sorrow became extreme and she threw herself and
Satis House into perpetual mourning and a monument to her
broken heart, shutting the world out and herself from the
world. Her only concession is in her adoption of Estella.
Miss Haversham has ulterior motives in adopting
Estella, this is not a loving action on her part, but a
calculated manoeuvre to turn the child into a haughty,
heartless instrument of revenge against men. Estella is
encouraged to practice her disdain on Pip and to break his
heart. Paradoxically, Miss Havershams greatest sin, is
against herself. By hardening her heart she loses her
generous, affectionate nature and becomes withered inside
emotionally. Her punishment is that the heartless young
woman she has made, uses her lack of feelings against Miss
Estella herself is isolated, as for most of the novel
she takes pleasure in her role of avenger. Her isolation is
in part responsible for Pips snobbery and his estrangement
from Joe and Biddy. Like Miss Haversham she becomes a victim
of her own machinations. She enters into a loveless marriage
to Drummle, who is cruel to her. This shows that no matter
how heartless one tries to be, there is always someone more
heartless. The instrument of revenge punishes the avenger
and is punished in return.
Pip feels emotionally and geographically isolated on
his arrival in London. Jaggers isolation is his deliberate
rejection to human involvement, he substitutes these with
the mechanical process of law. Jaggers uses the legal system
to avoid personal responsibility for the fate of his fellow
man. This profession has imprisoned his better instincts,
leaving him isolated within the system. Magwitch, however,
is isolated by the system, he uses Pip as his agent of
revenge. Magwitchs’ motives are not only revenge, but also
gratitude for the food Pip gave him in his hour of need. He
develops a fatherly affection towards Pip, who in the end
returns his affection. It is Magwitch who has the best
reasons for disbelieving in human companionship, that
supported it the most.
Love in the context of human relationships is best
shown through Pip. The relationship between Pip and Joe
changed as Pip grew up. As a child, Pip regarded Joe as an
equal, though he loved him, “I had a new sensation of
feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart.”
Though there is love, the snobbish Pip is critical of Joe,
not verbally, but in his thoughts. When Pip attains his
“Great Expectations,” he is embarrassed by what he regards
as Joe’s commonness and avoids his company.
Pip’s conscience makes him realise, Joe has more
gentlemanly qualities than he himself possesses, his remorse
however is short lived. When Pip’s fortunes take a fall he
is too ashamed to approach Joe and Biddy, their love is too
strong however and are there for Pip in his hour of need.
In Pip’s relationship with Biddy, he is very
condescending, and shows disregard for her feelings, ” If I
could only get myself to fall in love with you,” is a prime
example. Pip compares Biddy to Estella and overlooks her
obviously good qualities. After his loss of fortune, Pip
decides to honour Biddy by marrying her. “I would go to
Biddy.” Pip still snobbishly thought Biddy would be glad to
marry him. However, Biddy has married Joe. Though she was
once half in love with Pip, Biddy recognised his obsession
for Estella and wisely sought a partner elsewhere. Biddy and
Joe share the same values and are ideal partners.
Herbert and Clara, Mr Wemmick and Miss Skiffin and Mr
and Mrs Pocket have loving steady relationships.
Pip’s sexual attraction towards Estella is more
romantic ideology than genuine love. He envisions Estella as
a captive princess and himself as the heroic knight, only he
can awaken love in her heart. Even though Estella tells him,
“I have no heart”, he does not believe her.
Does Estella believe what she says or is she trying
to convince herself? Is she using her unattainability to
perversely keep Pip’s interest?
Redemption is attained by Miss Haversham when she
humbles herself to ask Pip’s forgiveness. After the cruelty
she has endured at the hands of Compeyson, Estella emerges a
more compassionate person. Pip’s forgiveness and love from
Joe, Biddy and Magwitch. He endures hardship and
triumphantly emerges a mature, thoughtful person.
The themes of Love, Isolation and Redemption are the
structure the other themes hang from. The loneliness of
isolation is the beginning; love is the food that staves it
off and redemption is the final cleansing. Love is the
backbone of the novel, the thing that binds the others
together, redemption is its conclusion. There has to be love
or the characters would not be able to interact, if there
were only isolation each character’s tale would be a
separate piece of work. All good novels have a moral to
relate and involve love and redemption.
By Anne Gilmour.
All comments would be welcome as I am studying for exams.
Please Email me at Anne@merton.ftech.co.uk