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Great Expectations Theme Analysis

1481 words - 6 pages

Since it was first published over 150 years ago, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations has come to be known as a timeless and remarkably moving work of literature. It is considered to be one of Dickens’ most recognizable works, and is celebrated for its meaningful, universally-believed themes. In order for this novel to be properly understood, a thoughtful analysis of its major themes must be given.
Socio-Economic Status and Hierarchy
The ones who seem to be most affected by society’s beliefs about class and social order are Pip, his family, and his friends, who would definitely fall under the “lower” part of the socio-economic ladder. Throughout the novel, the “lower” characters have a heightened and even a bit unhealthy obsession with class status. This is first seen when the character Miss Havisham is introduced; Uncle Pumblechook and the Gargery’s, Mrs. Joe especially, are elated that Pip will have an association with Miss Havisham, a very wealthy spinster. They believe that Pip and Miss Havisham’s association will both increase their wealth and social class, with Mrs. Joe proclaiming, “this boy’s (Pip’s) fortune may be made by his going to Miss Havisham’s…” (Dickens 82). At first, young Pip does not care for such beliefs, but as he becomes older, he begins to internalize them, and he himself starts to develop a sense of social order. It might have become established during his first encounter with Miss Havisham’s, in which he is severely ridiculed by Estella to the point of tears (Dickens 92). After that day, he would strive to be “oncommon” (Dickens 100). Pip’s views on social class even go on to affect his relationship with his those around him. He turns away from his from his family and friends in Kent, disregarding them because of their poverty and ignorance (Dickens 134) and looks forward to have a more enlightened life in London (Dickens 172). This damages Pip’s relationship with those in Kent, and he comes to regret the way he has treated them (Dickens 296). The message that Dickens could be trying to convey is that a culture’s beliefs about social standing and order can significantly affect individuals and their mindsets.
Family
The theme of family is shown mainly through Pip’s relationship with his brother-in-law, Joe Gargery. In the beginning of the novel, Pip makes it obvious that he dislikes his sister, and takes more of a liking to her husband Joe because Pip is able to sympathize with him (Dickens 40). Joe becomes his confidant, a fact that becomes apparent when Pip comes home to face a harsh interrogation by Mrs. Joe and Uncle Pumblechook after his first visit to Miss Havisham’s. Pip lies to the both of them about his experience, but feels guilty about doing the same to Joe and confesses his wrongdoing. Joe shows understanding towards Pip, and instead of sternly rebuking him for lying, he simply but seriously Pip about the dangers of lying, saying “if you can’t get to be oncommon (uncommon) through going straight, you’ll...

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