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Great Expectations Theme

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“To assail with contemptuous, coarse, or insulting words or wrongly hurt by maltreatment”, the definition of abuse. Charles Dickens uses the dominant idea of abusiveness in his novel Great Expectations. He applies abusive behaviors in the personalities of his characters. Both the protagonist and antagonist are often treated poorly or routinely abused. The author uses negative aspects of their lives to highlight the emptiness and abusive environment of unhealthy relationships.

In the beginning of the novel, Mrs. Joe often hits Pip with the tickler “a wax-ended piece of cane, worn smooth by collision with my tickled frame”(6).

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She constantly brags about having brought Pip up by hand, as Pip explains in the book my sister “Mrs. Joe Gargery…had established a great reputation with herself and the the neighbors because she had brought me up “by hand” having at that time to find out for myself what the expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand and to be much into the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me”(6).

In a few cases Mrs. Joe Gargery wishes Pip in a grave. Pip and Mrs. Joe Gargery don’t have the best relationship. Mrs. Joe’s upbringing of Pip changed his character arc, when he was a child he was very sympathetic and polite. Toward the middle and the ending of the novel Pip becomes almost selfish and bitter.

Throughout the course of the book Estella belittles Pip. Because of his low self-esteem he is drawn to Estella and her natural beauty. She calls him course, common, she makes fun of his boots, and calls him “boy”. Upon their first meeting at the Satis House, she constantly poked and prodded at him “Why don’t you cry?” “Because I don’t want to.” “You do,” said she. “You have been crying till you are half blind, and you are near crying again now” She laughed contemptuously, pushed me out, and locked the gate upon me”(63). Since Pip feels rejected by Estella he feels a sense of self pity so he takes it out on himself. “I got rid of my injured feelings for the time by kicking them into the brewery wall, and twisting them out of my hair”(61). This behavior is very similar to Mrs. Joe and her habitual beating of Pip with the tickler. I believe that some of it transferred over to Pip from his early childhood experience, almost as if he expects to be abused and mistreated. Once Pip gets back to his house, Mrs. Joe asks him
questions about his visit and out of nowhere he soon found himself “getting heavily bumped from behind in the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and having my face ignominiously shoved against the wall, because I did not answer those questions at sufficient length”(64). Due to Mrs. Joe’s abusive behavior, Pip’s personality changes, he becomes more timid, thus changing his character arc.

Miss Havisham abuses Estella emotionally, using her as a tool to get back at men, from when her heart was broken many years ago. She teaches Estella not to love. Miss Havisham is frequently encouraging Pip to “love her, love her, love her! If she favors you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces – and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper – love her, love her, love her!”(240). Miss Havisham does this so that when Pip loves her back, so she can break his heart. It is almost as if Pip and Estella are her puppets and she is the person behind the scenes controlling them. Estella has a very passive personality which allows Miss Havisham to control Estella and her meet her goal of leading men on. Estella sees herself as an object since Miss Havisham only taught her to attract men. Miss Havisham emotionally abused Estella during her childhood, because of this her character arc changes. She gets colder and meaner as the novel goes on. She continues to tell Pip not to fall in love with her because she will not be able to love him back.

Within Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations, he presents the theme, “Whats important in life?” through the abusive personalities in the main characters lives. Abuse is not good, no matter what kind physical or verbal it can change peoples lives drastically “Abuse is the weapon of the vulgar”(Samuel Griswold Goodrich). Dickens highlights the negative side of life in contrast to an ideal life with supporting and loving friends. Negative or positive treatment can change the course of your life.

Cite this Great Expectations Theme

Great Expectations Theme. (2016, Nov 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/great-expectations-theme/

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