Great Expectations is Charles Dickens' thirteenth novel. It is the second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person. Great Expectations is a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age novel, and the story genre is Victorian Literature. It depicts the growth and personal development of an orphan named Pip.
Imagery in this rich novel takes the form of individual visualizable images, metaphor and other kinds of figurative language, simple and complex allusions to fairytales and other literature, entire scenes that function analogically or metaphorically and set up reverberations throughout the entire text.
For example, Dickens characteristically makes heavy use of visualizable images, such as the stopped clock at Miss Havisham's and the handcuffs held up by the soldiers at the end of Chapter 4. “I ran no farther than the house door, for there I ran head foremost into a party of soldiers with their muskets; one of whom held out a pair of handcuffs to me saying, 'Here you are, look sharp, come on!'" Note that these images take the form of real objects in the novel and that the mind of narrator endows them with additional meaning.
The character of Estella represents the symbols of isolation and manipulation.
By acting as an adult when she was still young, she separated herself from Pip
and others. This was due in large part to the way Miss Havisham, her stepmother,
raised her. She had no emotion, as Miss Havisham used her for revenge on men. On
his first visit to the Satis House, Pip overheard Miss Havisham tell Estella
"Well? You can break his heart." . By doing what Miss Havisham tells her to,
she shows she is just as heartless as her stepmother. She also represents
manipulation in how she played with Pip's feelings, who has strong feelings for
her eventhough he also cannot stand her. She tells Pip "Come here! You may kiss
me if you like." . Although the kiss may have meant a lot to Pip, it did
not mean anything to Estella as she was just playing with Pip's emotions.
Pip eventually realizes his great expectations, but not in the way he envisions. He sees the error of his ways and understands that happiness comes through doing good to others, as displayed by his treatment of Provis and Herbert, not through social status or wealth. His reconciliation with Joe demonstrates his willingness to embrace goodness, regardless of status.
Dickens sees himself as Pip, the main character. In this way, you can figure out many aspects of Dickens' life because of the way he sets up Pip in the novel. At the end of the novel, it desribes there being hope for Pip and his willingness to be good shows that in reality, Dickens struggled, but also had success and that hope is something that should not be lost.
An analysis of Great Expectations shows that characters with less than worthy motives fail to achieve happiness.
1. Pip dreams of being a gentleman to impress Estella. He becomes a gentleman and with his new found wealth accrues several debts and with his new found status does little to better his society, shunning those who were good to him--Joe and Biddy--for those who belittle him. He becomes Estella's bootlick instead of her paramour. The ultimate irony is Pip's status is dependent on a convict, exiled for life for a multitude of crimes.
2. Miss Havisham's dream of raising a daughter and shielding her from the cruelties of men does not protect her from the cruelties of Bentley Drummle. Havisham's efforts to use Estella as an instrument of revenge on all men backfires as she realizes her machinations have caused Pip to endure pain.
3. Abel Magwitch dreams of producing a gentleman, but does not realize his schemes have failed.
Dickens has shaped Great Expectations on the lines of the Bildungsroman genre, which closely follows the inner growth of a protagonist from his childhood to middle age. In many respects, it contains themes and emotions directly related to the author’s experience. However, the fictional nature of the story allows Pip to relate incidents and events that are similar to sensitive spots in Dickens’ own life without becoming too deeply involved in the narration himself. For instance, the description of Pip’s childhood has some affinity with Dickens own life. Also, Estella seems directly inspired from Maria Beadwell, a lady whom Dickens loved; Beadwell snubbed him coldly because of his low social status.
Many famous novels contain insights on the author's actual life seen through actions and events occuring in the main characters' lives. Dickens is among these authors along with F. Scott Fitzgerald and many others. This strategy can be effective because the author is close to the story and can tell it with a personal spin.
Pip’s great expectations are a dramatized exploration of human growth and the pressures that distort the potential of an ordinary individual, especially in the process of growing up. Pip is a simple blacksmith’s boy who aspires to cross social boundaries when he realizes his own upbringing is common; however, he has no means to change. Mysteriously, he is given the means, but wealth only brings with it idleness. He learns that happiness in life can be achieved only by hard work and that great expectations not grounded in reality can only lead to tragedy and heartache.
Time is the force that weighs upon characters’ hopes and dreams in Great Expectations. These characters are fixated on the future, but are frustrated as the past haunts them and prevents them from attaining these dreams. The pace of time is simultaneously rapid and lethargic, and different worlds within the novel have different ways of measuring time. Time is also closely tied to mortality, reminding characters of their encroaching deaths and emphasizing all that has yet to be accomplished.
Miss Havisham is an especially prime example of a character fixated on time. She wears her wedding dress still and will not leave her bedroom, stuck with remembrances of her wedding day. She does not have that much time left and she uses it fixating on the past. This leads to her ultimate demise at the end of the novel.
Notions of and obsession with society and class lead the protagonist of Great Expectations into self-destruction and a loss of dignity. In the world of this novel, society is divided among class lines, creating impenetrable barriers between social classes. When characters attempt to break through these barriers, they only find loneliness and loss. Society is both exalted as a productive and efficient means of organizing human chaos and it is revealed to be internally rotten.
Miss Havisham is a bitter old woman, whose life effectively stopped when she was abandoned on her wedding day. Half a century after this disappointment, Miss Havisham still wears a yellowing wedding gown, and has made it her life's purpose to raise Estella, whom she's adopted, as a cruel-hearted woman who'll break the hearts of men. Miss Havisham is rich too, and deceives Pip by implying that she's his benefactor. Near the end of the novel she realizes her cruelties are nearly unforgivable, although she dies not long after this realization.
Pip is an orphaned boy raised by his domineering sister and her kind husband, and his life and expectations make for the drama of the novel. A mysterious benefactor enables Pip to escape a destiny as the village blacksmith, and he travels to London as a teenager to become a 'gentleman.' Pip's perception of his life and prospects (especially his prospects with Estella) change dramatically when he's twenty-three, when he learns that his benefactor is not a rich old lady, but a common convict. Ultimately, Pip comes to appreciate the convict as a benefactor and a friend.