Love & Guilt in Great Expectations Essay
THE ISSUES OF ‘LOVE’ AND ‘GUILT’ IN “GREAT EXPECTATIONS” Because Charles Dickens’ novel “Great Expectations” focuses on the growth and development of the most important character who functions as both Pip the narrator and Pip the protagonist, this novel is called a bildungsroman. In this context, it is of great significance to understand or analyze the character of Pip so that we can draw a conclusion from his actions in the novel.
The aim of this essay is basically to discuss the two significant issues of ‘love’ and ‘guilt’ together in this mid-Victorian novel concerning mostly the main characters Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella, Biddy, Herbert and Joe. Right from the early chapters of the novel, the reader gets to know that even though Mrs. Joe is Pip’s elder sister, Pip feels close to Joe, Mrs. Joe’s husband, rather than his own sister who never shows him any affection; let alone affection, she even threatens him with her “Tickler” whenever she thinks Pip has done something wrong.
Consequently, it is not abnormal that Pip grows to love Joe much more than her. In this respect, Joe symbolizes goodness, kindness, and loyalty despite his uneducated self and he still cares for Pip even after Pip leaves and (almost) forgets about Joe. Actually, Pip becomes disdainful of Joe (and Biddy) when he goes to London to become a gentleman upon being informed that he has a secret benefactor. Nevertheless, the reader feels that Pip still loves Joe, but he does not want to see Joe for the simple reason that he is uneducated and he may make Pip ashamed with his uncultivated manners.
Thus, although Pip seems to forget about Joe, he still has a strong conscience which enables him to seek for his original uncorrupted feelings towards Joe; Pip the narrator is perfectly able to judge his own bad actions that he did in the past, especially against Joe, and he feels a very strong sense of gulit as a consequence. On the other hand, Joe is aware that his uneducated self is going to trouble Pip if he stays close to him and he addresses him as ‘sir’ after Pip moves to London: He knows he should keep the distance.
After Pip falls ill upon Magwitch’s death, Joe comes to take care of Pip, but once Pip gets well, Joe again increases the distance between Pip and himself. This is, of course, because Pip neglected Joe after he has gone to London. Fortunately, Joe (and Biddy) is sympathetic enough to forgive Pip when the latter rushes home after Joe leaves (originally to propose Biddy) and they are truly reconciled at last.
Very much to Pip’s surprise, by the way, Pip finds out that Joe has paid for his debts before he left, which teaches Pip a good lesson; Dickens likes the moral lessons and here he tries to show the reader that even a man of lower class such as Joe can be a great model for a snobbish person like Pip. This is also obvious when Pip attempts to tell Joe about his benefactor upon which Joe refuses to know about it: This clearly means Joe does not care about the money and he helps Pip only because he loves him (unlike Pumblechook).
So, at least Pip is eventually able to understand his mistake no matter how guilty he feels towards Joe. In London, Pip strikes up a lasting friendship with Herbert Pocket, the son of Matthew Pocket, with whom he had first met in the garden of Miss Havisham’s Satis House and who had challenged Pip to a fight. Herbert contributes a lot to Pip on his way to becoming a gentleman and they really get on well with each other. Herbert’s expectation from the future is to be a merchant and make enough money to marry his good-natured Clara.
Pip feels such a close friendship to him that he secretly aids him financially to turn his almost impossible dream into reality in spite of the fact that Pip is running up debts and needs money for himself. So, to some extent, Pip’s ‘Great Expectations’ required him to neglect ignorant Joe and build up a more close friendship with Herbert. All in all, we can conclude that “gentlemanliness in the nineteenth-century world involves exclusion and repression for someone like Pip, alienation from Joe and the warmth of instinctive life which the blazing forge symbolises. ” (Sell, Roger D. Great Expectations – Contemporary Critical Essays. . 111 ). Biddy is a kind, moral and sympathetic girl at heart, but in appearance although she is nice, she is a plain countrygirl, not beautiful enough for Pip to fall in love with her. Pip owes his basic education to Biddy and he is really grateful to her. Moreover, Pip is amazed at her ability to learn everything that Pip knows. Her kindhearted nature and intelligence really has an impact on Pip, but he cannot really love her emotionally, especially after he meets Miss Havisham’s beautiful and noble young ward, Estella. Biddy is the conscious character in the novel and therefore, she (and also
Joe) is reluctant for Pip’s leaving for London to become a gentleman since she very well knows that if he leaves, he will never return again. Yet, eventually as Joe does, Biddy also forgives Pip thanks to her sympathetic nature. We know that Pip is really in love with Estella, however, this love is certainly an unreachable love for Pip, in other words, Pip loves her passionately as well as hopelessly, since as Estella herself says, she has no heart. Even after Pip learns that Miss Havisham raised her to break men’s heart as a revenge for her own broken heart, he keeps loving her very deeply; he is simply a toy at the hands of Estella.
Only after Estella gets married to Bentley Drummle, is Pip quite aware of the unworthiness of his love; Pip, who was once utterly faithful to his love, leaves his past behind him. So, on one side, there is this simple but kindhearted countrygirl and on the other side, cruel and cold Estella; Pip’s expectations are so high that he cannot go without loving such a girl who is beyond his reach. And as a matter of fact, Pip’s main wish to become a gentleman is to be able to marry Estella; “Pip desires educational improvement.
This desire is deeply connected to his social ambition and longing to marry Estella: a full education is a requirement of being a gentleman. ” (www. sparknotes. com). By the way, it is not exactly clear whether Pip wanted to keep Biddy away from Orlick for he was jealous of her or for he simply had affectionate feelings towards her when Orlick was following after Biddy. However, when Pip decides to marry Biddy towards the end of the novel, we know that Pip is on no account passionate about Biddy, but rather he is affectionate to her and if he could marry Biddy, theirs would be an affectionate marriage.
Therefore, upon being informed that Biddy and Joe have already married, he does not fall into a deep sorrow; he is even happy to hear about their union, however, he did fall into a deep grief as soon as he heard about Estella’s decision to marry Drummle. At the very end of the novel, by the way, it is most probable that there is a resurgence of Pip’s love for Estella now that he sees that Estella, who once had not known the meaning of love, has learned to appreciate true affection.
Miss Havisham is known in the novel as a weird, eccentric, revengeful, and wealthy woman who is jilted by Compeyson on their wedding day as a result of which she adopts Estella as a tool for her revenge. It seems that Miss Havisham really fell in love with Compeyson, because instead of starting a brand new life without him, Miss Havisham just stays indoors, always wearing her worn wedding dress and having all the clocks in her house stopped at the moment when she learned that Compeyson jilted her.
Nevertheless, Miss Havisham was not able to see that Compeyson was but a swindler and he loved her money: “Miss Havisham, now a wealthy young heiress, becomes the target of an opportunistic swindler. She falls in love with Compeyson and accepts his marriage proposal. Miss Havisham’s love for Compeyson makes her vulnerable to the “systematic way, that he got great sums of money from her” (177; ch. 22). Against the advice of Mr. Pocket, Miss Havisham is “induced” by Compeyson “to buy her brother out of a share in the brewery (which had been weakly left to him by his father) at an immense price” (177; ch. 2). ” (http://www. umd. umich. edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/geweb/WOMENAND. htm). Pip becomes the victim of her revenge and she keeps repeating to Pip “Love her, love her” referring Estella. Yet, towards the end of the novel, she begins to regret what she has done and she repeatedly begs Pip for forgiveness. This shows that her cruelty is connected to her dramatic past experience and she is now able to see her mistakes: She could not lessen her pain caused by Compeyson by taking her revenge on somebody else like Pip, but on the contrary, she caused more and more pain, especially for Pip.
And regardless of the fact that Pip says he does forgive her, she cannot forgive herself as she regretfully repeats “What have I done! ” On the whole, these issues have great influence over the characters, usually forming highly dramatic and complicated developments for them. What we learn as a result is that morality, which includes loyalty, affection and conscience, is an important subject in one’s life and one should never lose it. Alternatively, one can improve one’s weak characteristics by sympathy and regret. The events of Pip’s life unfold as Pip learns the true value of the people he has encountered throughout his life. ” (http://kclibrary. nhmccd. edu/dickens-expect. html).
BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Sell, Roger (ed. ). Great Expectations, Contemporary Critical Essays. London: Macmillan, 1994. 2. http://www. sparknotes. com/lit/greatex/themes. html 3. http://kclibrary. nhmccd. edu/dickens-expect. html 4. http://www. umd. umich. edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/geweb/WOMENAND. htm