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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

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Introduction

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens I read Great Expectations for the first time when I was a freshman in high school. I enjoyed it very much then, and enjoyed it even more with the second reading. Dickens' descriptions of Mrs. Joe and Wopsle make me laugh. Even though I wanted to feel sorry for Pip, imagining Mrs. Joe smacking her husband around with a frying pan is hilarious, and I think most people cheer when Orlick renders her an invalid. I think most people today can relate to Pip's struggle with wanting his circumstances to be better, and so many people go about it in the wrong way, just as he did. Materialism is an especially relevant subject today, as the rich grow even richer. I could relate to Pip as he realized that he must accept himself and the circumstances of his life in order to be happy. ...read more.

Middle

Although Great Expectations is not intended to be social commentary (as he intended his novel Hard Times to be), Dickens does seem to be commenting on the horrors of prison life in London with his description of Newgate Prison in chapter 32. The protagonist is Pip, a dynamic character as he loses his innocence to pride, and is then once again humbled by learning of his convict benefactor. The antagonist might easily be determined as Miss Havisham, although Pip's own ego and pride certainly have a hand in creating his own conflict and struggles. Estella might have been a dynamic character, judging from the revised ending where she is educated by life, as Pip was, and realizes how awfully she treated Pip. In the original ending, however, Pip must accept that Estella truly is incapable of love for him. Miss Havisham experiences a change toward the end of the novel when she sees how much Pip loves Estella and how much her obsession with revenge against men has hurt Pip. ...read more.

Conclusion

Pip experiences many types of conflict: person-against-person, such as when Orlick tries to kill him; person-against-nature, such as when Pip saves Miss Havisham from the fire; and person-against-self as Pip struggles with his false sense of pride and disdain for his upbringing. The theme of Great Expectations is didactic but subtle and simple: a person's worth does not come from social station or money, but from one's own self. We see Pip's false sense of pride as he thinks he has become a gentleman, although through someone else's money--a convict's money, an idea which horrifies Pip, but one which he must accept. This inappropriate pride is juxtaposed with Joe's honest and sincere pride in himself and in his work. Joe always gives Pip unconditional love and acceptance, referring to them as "always the best of friends." Great Expectations is a rather long novel, around four hundred and sixty pages long. The edition I read included several illustrations, was bound in a plain brown cover, and printed in a rather small font. ...read more.

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