GREAT EXPECTATIONS. By Anne Gilmour. November1996. Of the major themes from Charles Dickens novel”Great Expectations” to be discussed as to their importanceconcerning its structure, I have selected “Love” in thecontext of human relationships, “Isolation” and finally”Redemption”.
The loneliness isolation brings can only beredeemed by the loving associate of our fellow man, this is atwo way thing. “Had grown diseased, as all minds do andmust and will that reverse the appointed order of theirmaker. ” In isolation the greatest sin we commit againstourselves and others, is to shun human companionship asMiss Haversham did. After her betrayal in love shehardened her heart towards her fellow man. By hardeningher heart and suppressing her naturally affectionate nature,she committed a crime against herself.
Miss Havershamslove for Compeyson is of a compassionate kind, this blindedher to his true nature, as Herbert remarked, “too haughtyand too much in love to be advised by anyone. ” AtCompeysons desertion her anger and sorrow becameextreme and she threw herself and Satis House intoperpetual mourning and a monument to her broken heart,shutting the world out and herself from the world. Her onlyconcession is in her adoption of Estella. Miss Havershamhas ulterior motives in adopting Estella, this is not a lovingaction on her part, but a calculated manoeuvre to turn thechild into a haughty, heartless instrument of revenge againstmen. Estella is encouraged to practice her disdain on Pipand to break his heart. Paradoxically, Miss Havershamsgreatest sin, is against herself.
By hardening her heart sheloses her generous, affectionate nature and becomeswithered inside emotionally. Her punishment is that theheartless young woman she has made, uses her lack offeelings against Miss Haversham. Estella herself is isolated,as for most of the novel she takes pleasure in her role ofavenger. Her isolation is in part responsible for Pipssnobbery and his estrangement from Joe and Biddy. LikeMiss Haversham she becomes a victim of her ownmachinations.
She enters into a loveless marriage toDrummle, who is cruel to her. This shows that no matterhow heartless one tries to be, there is always someone moreheartless. The instrument of revenge punishes the avengerand is punished in return. Pip feels emotionally andgeographically isolated on his arrival in London. Jaggersisolation is his deliberate rejection to human involvement, hesubstitutes these with the mechanical process of law. Jaggersuses the legal system to avoid personal responsibility for thefate of his fellow man.
This profession has imprisoned hisbetter instincts, leaving him isolated within the system. Magwitch, however, is isolated by the system, he uses Pipas his agent of revenge. Magwitchs’ motives are not onlyrevenge, but also gratitude for the food Pip gave him in hishour of need. He develops a fatherly affection towards Pip,who in the end returns his affection. It is Magwitch who hasthe best reasons for disbelieving in human companionship,that supported it the most.
Love in the context of humanrelationships is best shown through Pip. The relationshipbetween Pip and Joe changed as Pip grew up. As a child,Pip regarded Joe as an equal, though he loved him, “I had anew sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up toJoe in my heart. ” Though there is love, the snobbish Pip iscritical of Joe, not verbally, but in his thoughts.
When Pipattains his “Great Expectations,” he is embarrassed by whathe regards as Joe’s commonness and avoids his company. Pip’s conscience makes him realise, Joe has moregentlemanly qualities than he himself possesses, his remorsehowever is short lived. When Pip’s fortunes take a fall he istoo ashamed to approach Joe and Biddy, their love is toostrong however and are there for Pip in his hour of need. InPip’s relationship with Biddy, he is very condescending, andshows disregard for her feelings, ” If I could only get myselfto fall in love with you,” is a prime example.
Pip comparesBiddy to Estella and overlooks her obviously good qualities. After his loss of fortune, Pip decides to honour Biddy bymarrying her. “I would go to Biddy. ” Pip still snobbishlythought Biddy would be glad to marry him.
However, Biddyhas married Joe. Though she was once half in love with Pip,Biddy recognised his obsession for Estella and wisely soughta partner elsewhere. Biddy and Joe share the same valuesand are ideal partners. Herbert and Clara, Mr Wemmickand Miss Skiffin and Mr and Mrs Pocket have loving steadyrelationships.
Pip’s sexual attraction towards Estella is moreromantic ideology than genuine love. He envisions Estella asa captive princess and himself as the heroic knight, only hecan awaken love in her heart. Even though Estella tells him,”I have no heart”, he does not believe her. Does Estellabelieve what she says or is she trying to convince herself? Isshe using her unattainability to perversely keep Pip’sinterest? Redemption is attained by Miss Haversham whenshe humbles herself to ask Pip’s forgiveness.
After thecruelty she has endured at the hands of Compeyson, Estellaemerges a more compassionate person. Pip’s forgivenessand love from Joe, Biddy and Magwitch. He endureshardship and triumphantly emerges a mature, thoughtfulperson. The themes of Love, Isolation and Redemption arethe structure the other themes hang from.
The loneliness ofisolation is the beginning; love is the food that staves it offand redemption is the final cleansing. Love is the backboneof the novel, the thing that binds the others together,redemption is its conclusion. There has to be love or thecharacters would not be able to interact, if there were onlyisolation each character’s tale would be a separate piece ofwork. All good novels have a moral to relate and involvelove and redemption.
By Anne Gilmour. All commentswould be welcome as I am studying for exams.