Themes of Great Expectations

Themes of Great Expectations

The major themes of the novel “Great Expectations are – Society and class, Ambition and self-improvement, Guilt, repentance, and redemption, and Uncertainty and Deceit which are elaborated in the following way;

Society and class

Near the end of the Industrial Revolution, the novel “Great Expectations” is set. The Industrial Revolution was a time of dramatic technological advancement in production and trade which created new opportunities for the lower and poorer classes to gain wealth and become aristocratic. This new social dynamic marked a break from the hereditary aristocracy of the past. “Great expectations” is set in this new world, and Dickens discovers the emergence of Pip through the class system, a trajectory that would not have been possible in the rigid class hierarchy of the past.

The novel ranges from the lowest class of convicts and orphans to the poorest working-class of Joe and Biddy to the rich Miss Havisham. Significantly, the novel spends virtually no time focusing on the traditional elite, and even when it does, it ridicules those who believe in the legacy of the class through the fancy character of Mrs. Pocket, whose blind faith in blood lineage has made her completely useless to society.

Ambition and self-improvement

The protagonist Pip’s desire for self-improvement is the main source of the novel’s title because he believes in the possibility of progressing in life that is why he sets “great expectations” about his future. Ambition and self-improvement are created in three forms in the novel Great Expectations – moral, social, and educational which inspire Pip’s best and worst behavior throughout the novel.

At first, Pip desires moral self-improvement. When he behaves immorally and feels strong guilt that motivates him to act better in the future. For example, when he left for London, he tortured himself for treating Joe and Biddy so badly. Second, Pip seeks social self-improvement. In Estella’s love, he is eager to be a member of her social class. This gives Dickens the opportunity to gently mock the hierarchy of his era and make a statement about its magical nature. Significantly, Pip’s life as a gentleman is no longer as satisfying as his previous life as an apprentice of a blacksmith named Joe. Third, Pip seeks educational improvement. This desire is deeply rooted in his social ambitions and is eagerly expressed to marry Estella because education is a must to be a gentleman. But in the journey of life, Pip understands that social and educational advancement is irrelevant to one’s true value and that conscience and affection should be valued more than intelligence and social position.

Guilt, repentance, and redemption

Dickens basically shows the theme of Guilt, repentance, and redemption through the characters of Pip and Miss Havisham. Although Pip becomes a gentleman, he is plagued by guilt because of his superior attitude about himself. Pip begins to see himself as superior to the villagers and is also ashamed of Joe. He later works awkwardly and impatiently towards Joe in London. Pip rarely writes to Joe and Biddy, although he promises to do so. Although these actions make Pipe feel intense guilt, he does not change the way he treats Joe.

Pip resolves his crime problem by repentance. The process begins when Pip learns that Magwitch, not Miss Havisham, is his benefactor. Pip can realize the shame of his existence because he has a generous lifestyle based on pleasurable recreational activities without having a high attitude towards the lower class and achieving nothing worthwhile. He soon begins ransom work, such as helping Herbert start a business and becoming a loving surrogate son to Magwitch. Eventually, Pipe realizes that he can earn self-worth by working for it, not as a gentleman. As a result, he works in Herbert’s business for many years.

For the most part in the novel, Miss Havisham shows no sign of guilt. However, when Estella treats her coldly, he begins to feel remorse. Miss Havisham realizes that she has trained Estella to break not only men’s hearts but her own. For this reason, she apologizes to Pip.

Uncertainty and Deceit

The theme of uncertainty and deceit pervades throughout the novel “Great Expectations”. Dickens commences the novel with Pip uncertain about what his parents look like. Pip continues to feel uncertainty about the convicts. This uncertainty leads to his deceptive act of stealing food and a file. Pip’s uncertainty about his benefactor has been caused in part by Miss Havisham’s craft. Miss Havisham makes Pip believe that she is his benefactress.

However, Dickens has shown how removing deceit can also eliminate uncertainty. For example, Pip perceives uncertainty about the identity of Molly who is Mr. Jaggers’s housekeeper. Pip becomes surer of her identity as he learns about Mr. Jaggers’s deceitful act of secretly giving Estella to Miss Havisham to raise her as her adopted daughter. As Pip and readers discover, Estella is Molly and Magwitch’s biological daughter.

Click Here: For notes of the novel

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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