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Is Great Expectations a Romance?

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Emily Grant Is Great Expectations a Romance? Before being able to classify a novel, correctly or otherwise, into a certain genre, it is necessary to understand that genre and what constitutes it. The idea of a romance has changed somewhat since the time Great Expectations was written-now, it would be easy to confuse a 'romance' with a 'romantic novel'. The themes and issues involved in a typical, traditional romance are rather different to those explored in a modern romantic novel, which usually centres around the commonly understood view of 'romance' meaning love. In a glossary of literary terms, romance is defined as follows: Romance: A broad term, usually denoting a narrative with exotic, exaggerated, often idealized characters, scenes, and themes. If you were to look up romance in a dictionary, you would be informed that the word romance as a noun has a number of main meanings. The first deals with love-the second, describes it as "A mysterious or fascinating quality or appeal, as of something adventurous, heroic, or strangely beautiful"-the third, explains the idea of romance in literature, usually medieval, mentioning "chivalric heroes' and 'extraordinary or mysterious events". Although romance nowadays is widely understood to be closely associated with sexual love, the definition of a romance is more than this. ...read more.


There is an enigma surrounding Estella's past; when Pip inquires as to who her parents were and when she was adopted, he is told: "There has always been an Estella, since I have heard of a Miss Havisham." To not know who one's parents are, or to have been an orphan all one's life, is undeniably a romantic concept, however unpleasant in reality-it paves the way for all sorts of eventualities, and automatically adds an element of mystery to a character, essential in a romance. There are constituents of Great Expectations that are synonymous with a traditional romance. For example, many elements of the plot are fairly unrealistic and fantastical-the character of Miss Havisham, her eccentricities and her life, the way she obsesses over Estella and lives her life through her: "She hung upon Estella's beauty, hung upon her words, hung upon her gestures, and sat mumbling her own trembling fingers while she looked at her, as though she were devouring the beautiful creature she had reared". The ending of the story, a reconciliation and suggestion of love and friendship between Estella and Pip, is a most unlikely one-however, a true romance must have a happy ending. ...read more.


Pip turns his back on his roots, feeling ashamed of his family and his life: "I thought long after I laid me down, how common Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith: how thick his boots, and how coarse his hands"... "I was ashamed of him.". He is blinded by wealth and status, and chooses this above all that was good and true in his life, including Joe-this isn't noble or chivalrous, this isn't what a romantic hero would have done. The gentleman Pip becomes, greedy, selfish and scornful of his old way of life, is unpleasant to say the least; here Dickens is commenting on 'gentlemen' of the time. More typically to a romance would be the idea that all gentlemen were noble and chivalrous. The main plot of Great Expectations doesn't centre around love, or indeed relationships of any kind, and it isn't fantastical. Dickens also uses comedy within the novel, which would not usually feature in a typical romance. Comedy is made of Mrs Joe's death and funeral, whereas in a traditional romance this would have been romanticised and dramatised. In conclusion, there are arguments both for and against the statement that Great Expectations is a romance. There are points within the novel that do support the idea of it being a romance; however, many aspects would not typically feature in a romance. ...read more.

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