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Examine the portrait painted by Dickens of romantic love and marriage in ‘Great Expectations’

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Introduction

Examine the portrait painted by Dickens of romantic love and marriage in 'Great Expectations' It is possible to classify the types of relationships in this novel into three categories: Established marriages, marriages which occur during the story, and failed love affairs. It is interesting to note the way Dickens looks at marriages in the novel. He was, by all accounts, a person who had something of a problem with relationships, they were far free from problems or pains. Work on 'Great Expectations' commenced in late September of 1860 at what proved to be a peak of emotional intensity for Dickens. His own marriage, with Catherine Hogarth, broke down after 24 years and eight children and he spent the last years of his life with his mistress Ellen Ternan. His unsuccessful affair with his first and greatest love, Maria Beadnall, seems to have affected his whole perception of women, love and marriage. In 'GE', few of the relationships between the sexes are wholesome. With the exception of Herbert and Clara, Wemmick and the enigmatic Miss Skiffens and later in the novel, Joe and Biddy, all the other couples are, to a greater or lesser extent, dissatisfied or hostile in their loves together. The writing of 'GE', and by extension the creation of leading character, Pip, can also be viewed as an attempt to come to terms with the painful facts of his childhood. His family experienced financial instability, culminating in his father's imprisonment, Dickens himself was put to work at the age of twelve as a child labourer leading to his subsequent separation from his family as a result. ...read more.

Middle

At Compeyson's desertion her anger and sorrow became extreme and she threw herself and Satis House into perpetual mourning as a monument to her broken heart, shutting the world out and herself from the world. Much of what followed in her life was a symptom of what love, in the form of Compeyson, had done to her. It had cut her off from life, she had been unable to develop emotionally. She kept her dress on, she kept her heart broken. After her betrayal, her thoughts turned to revenge, revenge against all men and so she adopted Estella. As a result of what Compeyson had done to Miss Havisham, her definition of love turned to " ...blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation..." Estella was brought up to " Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!" When the reader is first introduced to Miss Havisham, Dickens shows a great contrast between the normal language of the novel and that spoke by Miss Havisham. In a book full of long phrases and long sentences Miss Havisham's are short and sharp and almost exclusively monosyllabic. This language implies that she is weak and short of breath, adding to the imagery of an old, white, skeleton woman. Like Miss. Havisham, Estella becomes a victim of her own machinations. She enters into a loveless marriage to Drummle, who is cruel to her. Drummle is heavily built, sulky, idle and stupid and Pip at once takes a dislike to him. ...read more.

Conclusion

and her tyrannical father, who dies at just the right time. Pip is very proud of Herbert's relationship with Clara and could not have been happier if he himself was getting married. "...I would not have undone the engagement between her and Herbert, for all the money in the pocket-book I had never opened." Once married, their love ceased to die. Clara was now "happily provided for" and their marriage was more than once described by Pip as simply "happy". Orlick is a simple but evil character, abetted in his crimes by low cunning. He know that Pip dislikes him for his attentions to Biddy " I was very hot indeed upon Old Orlick's daring to admire her; as hot as if it were an outrage on myself." Pip was insulted and angry at the thought of Biddy being pursued by Orlick. "I told her so, and told her that I would spend any money or take any pains to drive him out of that country". The portrait that Dickens is painting, of the novel, is on the whole, unhappy. Either ending of the novel is unusual, due to the fact that usually (except Oliver Twist) the people in Dickens books get married and there is always a bit at the end for children, or renewal. Here, there is only one child, between Biddy and Joe. The hero, Pip does not take part in this. There are also very few children throughout the whole book, unusually for Dickens. Pip suffers much anguish throughout the story because of this love interest since his persistence toward Estella never really gets rewarded until the last pages of the novel. Katrina Joseph 11MM - 1 - ...read more.

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