Great Expectations


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. 
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