?Great Expectations Essay Topic: Why is Great Expectations called Great Expectations? Jennifer Shupak There is an old cliche that cautions readers not to “judge a book by its cover”, but rather, by its contents.
While this piece of advice may indeed be true, one could ask if the same is true of judging a book by its title. The title of a book is in many ways indicative, not only of its contents, but perhaps more important, of its author’s message. A title serves to inspire the reader’s interest, while at the same time, to convey its central theme. Charles Dickens’ decision to entitle, what has become his most famous and celebrated work, Great Expectations, was a wise one, for it continues to communicate the book’s powerful and relevant theme, over a century after it was first published. The book’s title, Great Expectations, expresses the central theme of the novel, which is that of its characters’ grand and often misguided expectations of what will deliver the “happy life”. Through the book’s main characters, Dickens’ explores and portrays the struggle of the individual to compose his own life, amidst powerful external social expectations.
The novel contrasts Pip’s expectations against the expectations of others, and demonstrates how happiness will escape those who allow the expectations of others to control the course of their life. Convinced that the wealth and aristocratic lifestyle of Miss Havisham is the only respectable way to live, Pip sets out on a path to attain the unattainable and on a path that in essence, leads him away from himself. It is only when he recognizes the mistake of his ways, when he returns home after eleven years, to his humble beginnings, that he returns to himself and therefore is now able to acquire the happiness that he had been misguidedly chasing after. The story begins, with orphaned Pip living happily with his sister and her blacksmith husband Joe. Pip looks up to Joe, who is a simple, honest, hard-working, and content man.
Destiny is about to change Pip, when he unknowingly helps a convict, Abel Magwitch. Magwitch becomes the unnamed benefactor, who sends Pip away to be a gentleman. Suddenly, Pip’s expectations change and he begins yearning for material things and Estella’s love. Estella is a woman from the aristocracy, who Pip never would have aspired for when living with his sister and Joe. As Biddy wisely tried to tell Pip, “I should think – but you know best that might be better and more independently done by caring nothing for her words.
And if it is to gain her over, I should think – but you know best – she was not worth gaining over. Exactly what I myself have thought, many times. Exactly what was perfectly manifest to me at the moment. But how could I, a poor dazed village lad avoid that wonderful inconsistency into which the best and wisest of men fall every day?” (Page 129) Ironically, despite Pip’s new found material wealth, he is unhappy. It is only when Estella insults him that he becomes self-conscious and rejects whom he has become.
He finally realizes that wealth cannot bring happiness. Sadly, Pip’s greatest expectations could have been fulfilled living as a “poor lad” with Joe and his sister, the journey to attain wealth was filled with disappointment. Conversely, Joe and Biddy are simple, honest people who comfortably accept their place is society. They are humble, happy and care for their fellow human beings.
Joe tolerates Pip’s sister because his morals would not allow him to mistreat his wife. Likewise, Biddy is a loving, wise, girl who gives Pip astute advice. These characters’ expectations are realistic and reasonable. As a result, they fulfill their expectations with peace and contentment.
When Pip finally comes home, after eleven years, he is able to return to his former self. His expectations have finally found their proper course. The last chapter begins with Pip reflecting, “For eleven years, I had not seen Joe nor Biddy with my bodily eyes – thought they had both been often before my fancy in the East . . . There smoking his pipe in the old place by the kitchen firelight .
. . sat Joe: and there, fenced into the corner with Joe’s leg and sitting on my own little stool looking at the fire, was – I again!” (Page 481) Thus Pip returns home both physically and emotionally by the end of the novel. His expectations have taken him to London, where he experiences vast disappointment and finally, these expectations bring contentment when he returns home. On the other hand, Estella and Miss Havisham are wealthy, cold, unhappy characters. Estella is the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham, who is brought up without love.
Miss Havisham has the misguided expectation of using Estella to bring revenge on all men she comes in contact with. Tragically, Estella marries a cruel, brutal husband, ignoring Pip’s love for her. Miss Havisham’s misguided expectations lead to her madness. Finally, after her death, her cruel expectations for Estella finally die.
Miss Havisham and Estella are not what they appear to be. Their misguided expectations have made them cold, cruel characters filled with a false sense of pride which leads to profound disappointment in their lives. Finally, at the conclusion of the novel, Estella admits to Pip that she has led her life foolishly and asks for his forgiveness by saying: “But you said to me,’ returned Estella, very earnestly, God bless you, God forgive you!’ And if you could say that to me then, you will not hesitate to say that to me now – now, when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. Be as considerate and good to me as you were, and tell me we are friends.
” (Page 484) In conclusion, the title Great Expectations has different meanings for the different characters in this novel. Joe and Biddy’s expectations lead them to lives of happiness and contentment. However, Estella and Miss Havisham’s expectations lead them to grand and misguided expectations, which result in lives of misery and disappointment. The protagonist in this novel, Pip, begins this novel with appropriate and realistic expectations.
One then sees his transition into desiring grand and misguided expectations and the resulting frustration and disappointment. Fortunately, Pip returns to his roots both physically and spiritually. He is fortunate in realizing what the true “great expectations” in his life should be.