Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations
Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations
Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations is the coming-of-age story of Philip Pirrip, better known as Pip. The story presents the development and growth of Pip as he becomes an adult. During the novel, the characters seem to have trouble communicating with each other. Because of the characters’ interest in only themselves, especially Pip, messages, some important and some not, are delayed or not received at all. According to G. K. Chesterton (1911/1996) in his article The Characters in Great Expectations, despite the novel’s title, expectations were never realized.
This statement could be interpreted as expectations were never realized because of the communication problems between the characters. The characters never seem to express what they want to tell one another. Messages are misinterpreted, and some messages are never heard. For example, Pip had loved Estella from the first time he met her. Toward the end of the novel, he finally told her so, but she did not reciprocate his love for her. She replied instead that she never misled him into thinking she felt the same way about him that he did for her. As a result, Pip was heartbroken (Dickens, 1861/1998).
Pip only believed what he wanted to believe, and saw what he wanted to see. This was evident when he dismissed her cold-hearted personality. She tried to tell him that she did not love him, but he would not listen. Pip turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to Estella until he was ready to profess his love for her. Perhaps he was hopeful that, one day, she would love him as much as he loved her. Pip refused to see that Estella did not love him; he instead chose to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. This was not the only time in the novel when Pip had trouble communicating with another character.
Early in the story, Pip is reunited with Magwitch. Pip wanted Magwitch to know that he did not turn Magwitch in to the police. However, Magwitch is seemingly not interested in what Pip has to convey. Instead, Magwitch gives Pip a look that Pip cannot quite understand (Dickens, 1861/1998). Magwitch does not seem at all interested in Pip’s explanation. It was evident to Pip that Magwitch did not comprehend the message Pip was trying to get across to him. Many of the characters have facades (Harris, 2000). This could be a cause of the communication problem.
For instance, Pip, when he became a gentleman, began to act how he though a gentleman should act. This led Pip to alienate Joe. Toward the middle of the story, Joe visited Pip in London. Although the visit was awkward, Joe wanted to tell Pip about what was happening back home. Joe was going to tell Pip that Wopsle became an actor. However, Pip did not listen. Instead, he was only interested in hearing that Estella wanted to see him. After Joe told him that Estelle did want to see him, Pip became friendlier and was then open to hearing what Joe had to say.
Unfortunately, Joe ended their visit before Pip had a chance to change his behavior (Dickens, 1861/1998). Had Pip not been interested only in himself, Joe would have been able to tell Pip about Wopsle. Because Joe felt alienated, Pip never heard the news about Wopsle. Perhaps if Pip had stopped thinking about his own, selfish needs for a few minutes, he would have been able to hear the news from Joe. On the road to adulthood, there are many times when miscommunication occurs. At the beginning of the story, Pip was an orphaned boy trying to find his way. On his path to adulthood, he was misled.
Paul Pickrel (1960/1999), editor of the Yale Review, likened Pip’s journey to adulthood to a fairy tale, with Joe and Jaggers as Pip’s guides, and Magwitch as the terrible ogre. Magwitch led Pip to try to become a gentleman; Magwitch was the benefactor for one of Pip’s “great expectations. ” While Pip was thinking he was being a gentleman, he alienated Joe, one of his guides to adulthood. This alienation led to the miscommunication when Joe went to visit Pip in London. The reader follows Pip on his journey to adulthood from an innocent little boy to a man educated by experience.
He is a fantasist; he thinks he can have the best of both worlds (Pickrel, 1960/1999). Pip isolates himself, and in the process becomes a terrible snob. He cut himself off from the people he loved, the people who loved him. At the end of the story, Pip returned to the forge. He was then informed that his sister has died and Joe married Biddy. Had he not been sucked into the myth of his own life, Pip could have married Biddy. Pip’s life could have turned out much differently had he kept the lines of communication open with Joe.
Miscommunication happens along the way, but Pip learned from those experiences, and he became a better man for it. – Chesterton, G. K. (1911/1996). The Characters in Great Expectations. In Harold Bloom (ed. ), Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers. 34. – Dickens, Charles. (1861/1998). Great Expectations. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. 43, 216-217, 345. – Harris, Robert. (2000). Notes for Great Expectations. Retrieved June 10, 2009, from Virtual Salt. http://www. virtualsalt. com/lit/greatexp. htm – Pickrel, Paul. (1960/1999). Pip’s Personal Journey to Adulthood. In Lawrence Kappel (ed. ),
Subject: Great Expectations,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 8 October 2016
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