Great Expectations

November 20, 2010
Recently I read the novel (fictitious narrative of considerable length) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. As a child, Dickens’s father neglected to pay off his debts, therefore getting him arrested, similar to what happened to Pip towards the end of the book. Pip, like Dickens, came from a poor family with little money. In his late teens, Dickens worked as a law clerk. This influenced his portrayal of the lawyer in the novel Jaggers. Dickens managed to string these ideas and experiences together to form a coherent, complex novel that many understandably enjoyed.


While I do understand the appeal of the novel, I feel the plot development in the first two stages could have progressed at a faster pace. For the most part, Dickens simply presented and expanded (expressed in fuller form) them where necessary. He could have used suspense better because its use merely left a feeling of mild curiosity instead one of urgency. This may have resulted from having the novel published in a newspaper, which meant a deadline and limited length for what he wrote. Dickens, unlike in the two previous stages, did a phenomenal job on the third stage, keeping me engaged and dying to know what happened next. This may have been partially due to the fact that I began to notice several similarities between Great Expectations and the TV show Glee.

To begin with, I noticed that Estella bears a striking resemblance to Rachel Berry from Glee. Both characters exhibit proud and condescending (showing a patronizing descent from superiority) traits and feel superior to others. In Estella’s case, her background makes her feel superior to Pip, and in Rachel’s, her signing voice does this. Magwitch also resembles the cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester. Both have bossy and violent tendencies. At the beginning of the novel, Magwitch forces Pip to bring him several necessities to help him survive, and Sue makes the students perform errands for her. Both also show a kind and compassionate side when around those they love. Magwitch shows this side around Pip and Sue around her sister with Down Syndrome. However, both Estella and Magwitch posses unique traits.

Despite Estella’s constant terrorizing of Pip, she realizes what she does has a negative effect urges Pip to stay away from her as she has “no heart,” thus showing her greatest strength, an inner (situated within) desire to do good. However, the fact that she can not stop herself from harming Pip shows her greatest weakness, giving into her upbringing. Dickens gives Magwitch a flaw of violent tendencies, but an inherently good heart. His violent tendencies show when he fights the second convict and threatens Pip at the beginning of the novel and when he attacks Compeyson in the marshes. The flaw and redeeming (offsetting some fault) trait in each character make both believable. In addition to these believable characters, Dickens uses several literary devices.

In this novel, Dickens uses both foils and foreshadowing as literary devices. Biddy and Estella offset each other significantly. Whereas Biddy shows kindness and sympathy towards Pip, Estella shows little more than cruelness and coldness towards him. The weather also acted as a foreshadowing device for something bad. For example (instance for illustration), when Magwitch comes to reveal his identity to Pip, the dark, stormy weather indicates that something bad may happen, and something bad does occur--Pip learned that his benefactor had been the convict from the beginning of the novel. Dickens not only uses these literary devices, but he also uses archetypes.

He utilizes quite predominately the situational archetype, the Initiation. The entire novel shows Pips journey into maturity and adulthood, as the archetypes requires. Pip learns to accept responsibility and become independent (not influenced by others) and think on his own throughout the course of the novel. He achieves this with the help of Magwitch who represents the character archetype, the Mentor. After being introduced to the reader, he guides Pip on his journey to maturity. On Pip’s journey, Dickens reveals the theme of this novel.

“Outcomes may not live up to expectations” shows itself as the theme of this novel. At the beginning, Pip expects that becoming a gentleman will solve his problems. Unfortunately, this proves incorrect (not accurate). In the end, his goal to become a gentleman gives him grief than he would have been subjected to had he remained a commoner. After his expectations turn out differently than Pip expected, on Magwitch’s deathbed, he says several moving things.

In this scene, Pip reveals (makes known) to Magwitch that his daughter Estella lives on, unbeknownst (unknown) to him. This scene displays Pip’s affection for Magwitch. It also shows that now he has begun to care for others more, something he had not done before. When he cries out to the Lord, it reveals that Pip wants the best for Magwitch and will truly miss him. Most importantly, though, this scene displays the difference between the Pip that began the novel and the one that ended it.





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