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The novel Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, follows a young, socially inexperienced boy through his journey of disillusionment and morally incorrect choices. These choices ultimately end with his inability to adapt to life and the relationships around him.
Pip encounters various tragedies throughout his perplexing years, plunging him into a life of deceit, debt and mysterious truths. These are all told through the eyes of the older Pip, frequently doubting himself and accusing himself of immoral deeds. His loneliness overshadows all signs of superiority he displays in his workings in London. The truths of his benefactor bring together all the mysteries and suspense in his life, finally leaving the reader wondering if he is going to live the rest of his life scarred by these tragedies. Highlighting the aspects of which Dickens disapproves and how he develops techniques will give a better understanding of Pip's life throughout this epic novel.
This story of a lonely orphan in a mixed up world provides plenty of opportunities to consider the difficult childhood in the nineteenth century and how hard it might have been for such a naïve and gullible young boy to survive in this time, especially with such a punishing family. The theme of injustice, which is portrayed in his childhood, explains some of the reasons why he has so many 'great expectations':
"In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice."
This is the beginning in Pip's search for 'great expectations', strongly portraying a sense of betrayal for all the beatings he has suffered during his wretched childhood. However, the love of his sister's husband Joe and the relations of certain individuals around him allow him to strive for better things, to forget about his horrible childhood and to realize his ambitions. At such a young age, Pip is somewhat inexperienced in his dealings with love, lust and ultimately, life. Pip's naivety throughout the novel gives the reader plenty of chances to sympathize with him and his pre - adolescent state. His assumptions as a youngster greatly affect the relations he has in later life, thus shaping the figure he becomes in the future. Pip is also an idealist. Whenever he sees the possibility of improvement, he strives to achieve it. Miss Havisham's story of her being abandoned on her wedding day and how she was betrayed earlier in life explains her resentment towards other people. Miss Havisham's dealings with Pip are somewhat manipulative, using him, and her orphaned daughter Estella, as a weapon against the entire male race for the betrayal she suffered:
'Break their hearts, my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!'
Her utter treachery is revealed, disregarding any feelings Pip may have towards her and only looking after Pip and Estella for her own, personal revenge. Pip's immediate adoration towards Estella and his deep obsession of her throughout the novel only further his disillusionment of life and love. When Pip first meets the convict in the graveyard, a dark, depressing and lonely mood is created, portraying the convict as a vile, disgusting criminal:
'A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars: who limped and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.'
This vivid description of the convict portrays the idea that he is a disgusting, sinful creature but also has basic human needs. Unknown to the reader, the convict lays the foundations for the rest of Pip's life, secretly giving him money with the help of Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer, as a thanks to the help he gave him that night in the graveyard. The truths of Pip's benefactor are revealed, leaving him doubting his short, problematical life, questioning whether that was all just a lie as well. Now, the idea of 'great expectations' is banished. Pip is left broken, wondering what other truths are still to be unveiled and if Estella's love for him is true or if, like most of his life, it is simply a delusion.
The main theme of this novel is to illustrate how your childhood shapes the person you are later in life. Pip frequently shows this throughout the novel, constantly looking back on his family and his vicious upbringing, trying not to disregard the love and support his family provided him with. Pip avoids commenting on Joe's vicious upbringing out of respect for all that he has done for him:
'Home was never a pleasant place for me, because of my sister's temper. But Joe had sanctified it.'
He feels that Joe has influenced him in life and altered how he sees his life by caring for him and 'softening' the beating of his sister. Even though Pip strives for 'greater expectations', he still cannot forget his family, often thinking about Joe. When he hears of Joe's childhood, he almost feels embarrassed of his awful upbringing, and wants to achieve better things in his life. Pip feels undervalued in his poor, depressing life at the forge and so wants to achieve more in his life.
His early experiences, meeting the convict and Miss Havisham, help him realize his place in life, and also help him to aim for better things. His early desire for better class and status is soon realized by the help of his so - called benefactor, Miss Havisham. When he realizes that he is to be sent to Miss Havisham to become a gentleman he instantly believes that he is destined for better things. Pip strongly believes that fate has brought him to Estella and that they are meant to be together.
Dicken's portrays a sense of crime and innocence throughout the novel, which instantly becomes a symbol of Pip's inner struggle to improve in life. At first, Pip disregards the convict's character as if frightened of him, but towards the end of the novel, Pip realizes Magwitch's inner nobility and sees him more as a friend than a convict. As Pip learns to trust Magwitch and not disregard him plainly because of his status, he has learned to focus more on the person inside and not just the physical appeal.
Throughout the novel, Pip searches for social justice for his punishing upbringing and thinks he is destined for greater things. Many lessons are learned throughout Pip's search for improvement. One of these lessons is encountered between Magwitch and Pip which shows that you can't judge a book by its cover. Towards the end of Great Expectations, Pip is content with where his life has ended up. Throughout life, Pip has changed from a loving, young boy into one who strives for better things and, as a result of this, becomes much more egotistical in his relationships in life. However, when his expectations come to an end, so does his desire for improvement and thus becomes a very good - natured person.
I particularly enjoyed reading this novel as I have often avoided works by Charles Dickens as I didn't, predominantly, like his use of complex and immoral characters. Since watching the Oliver series on TV, I have grown to like the complicated techniques of this epic author and a lot of his works.
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