The closing chapter of Great Expectations is sets eleven years after the previous chapter Pip returns to his childhood home, the forge where Joe and Biddy have settled. Before this, Pip had been working abroad in the ‘East’ with Herbert. This suggests that Pip is now a working man getting on steadily who is able to pay off his debts independently, in contrast to when he was a gentleman who owned money. Pip is delighted to find that Joe and Biddy had a son who they have named after him.
This suggests Joe harbours no bad feelings towards Pip despite how Pip had treated Joe in London. “And sitting on my own little stool looking at the fire, was – I again!” The warm atmosphere of Joe’s family contrasted to Chapter 2, where Pip was living a miserable child-hood, raised “by hand” by his sister.
Pip takes young Pip for a walk to the church-yard to “talk immensely, understanding one another to perfection.
” Pip “set him on a certain tombstone” which echoes back to chapter 1 when Magwitch set him on a tombstone. In contrast to the calm and steady atmosphere of this chapter, the atmosphere of chapter 1 was threatening and unstable.
When Pip finds out that Joe and Biddy also have a baby daughter, Pip seems almost jealous “you must give Pip to me, one of these days; or lend him, at all events.” Pip feels remorse that he never married and regrets he has no children of his own. Biddy advices Pip to get married and she reminds him of Estella however, Pip responds that he is too old to get married and has settled as an ‘old bachelor.
’ Pip also states that his “poor dream… has gone by, ‘dream’ suggests that it was impossible beyond his reach but he will not forget Estella “I have forgotten nothing in my life that ever had a foremost place there…” This show us that although he has accepted that he will never be with Estella he still has feelings of affection towards her.
After thinking of Estella, Pip revisits Satis house “For Estella’s sake” which again suggests he may still have some feeling towards her. Pip had heard and knows that Estella has led a most unhappy life” with Drummle, whom she purposely and ‘confidently’ married to wreak revenge on men: to “break men’s heart,” but ironically, becomes the victim being heartbroken. Drummle “used her with great cruelty” and suggests he married Estella just for greed for wealth “avarice” and also greed for “pride” for his obsession with status. They had been separated and later Drummle had died because of ill treating a horse. This reflects his use of “brutality” and “meanness” to get what he wants and ironically this had led to his death.
As Pip arrives at Satis House, the house and brewery have gone and only the old garden wall remains. In this Chapter, Dickens hints of hope. For instance, “I saw that some of the old ivy had struck root anew, and was growing green on the low quiet mounds of ruin,” suggesting time is updating itself and the present, the new root is replacing the past, the old ivy.
In contrast to the dark and bleak atmosphere in the opening chapter, here, in the concluding chapter “stars were shining beyond the mist, and the moon was coming, and the evening was not dark.” These references to light suggest hope because the atmosphere is peaceful and suggests to the reader that it is not going to be an unfortunate ending.
As Pip and Estella surprisingly meet, Pip states that “the freshness of her beauty was indeed gone” suggesting that Estella’s appearance is not as attractive as she was before because she not only has aged. The sad life she had led had prematurely aged her. Pip recognises the dramatic changes in Estella; she once had “proud eyes” that were insensitive of other people feelings and would act emotionlessly with her “insensible hand.” Estella has learned to become humble in the end after she had experienced her own sincere feelings and regrets. Out of her difficulties, she has come to a realization of what it means to be happy. “There was a long hard time… ignorant of its worth.” The scene now in the garden reflects a touching atmosphere “The silvery mist was touched with the first rays of the moonlight” unlike the atmosphere in the first chapter where it was dark and eerie.
Dickens ends Great Expectations with a hopeful conclusion. Estella and Pip went out of the ruined place ‘together.’ And Pip “saw no shadow of another parting from her.” This suggests that there is some justice in Pip and Estella finally able to see each other. As the reader we are led to believe that it was a happy ending. However, the ending is ambiguous because it is unclear what Pip and Estella will do next- it is not obvious whether they would get married or even remain together. I think Dickens has left the ending as a cliff-hanger because he wanted to show that life does not always go the way we want it to be. Dickens’ original ending for Great Expectations was an unhappy ending which was unpublished because critics argued that the lovers deserve to be together.
I feel that it is an effective ending to the novel because Dickens uses descriptive language to describe the atmosphere of the ending which is contrasted in the opening reminding us of the scene. The use of a cliff hanger in the ending may also suggest the unpredictability of life as we do not know what lies ahead in the future.