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Pip and Guilt in Great Expectations: Innocence, Association, And Obsession

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Pip and Guilt in Great Expectations: Innocence, Association, And Obsession (By Charlie Nelson) Guilt, no matter where it comes from will always be the state of feeling sorrow for actions that you have or have not done. Yet it is exactly here where we find the division of guilt. In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens illustrates Pip as a fellow who often feels guilty. He first feels guilty as a direct result of other people's actions. He then feels guilty for things beyond his control. However, when he begins to obsess with Estella, his guilt is derived from his own actions. When the story begins, Pip is a young lad, no older than about eight. His parents have died, along with many of his siblings. His closest relative is his sister, Mrs. Joe, who raises Pip along with her kind husband Joe. Pip is very innocent in this stage, for he has done nothing wrong. Little does he know that once he has seen "A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars (p.10)" he will introduce to us a sense of guilt he feels for the rest of the novel. When Pip first meets this "man", his guilt (in Dorothy Van Ghent's work titled On Great Expectations) ...read more.


653). According to Julian Moynahan in her work The Hero's Guilt: The Case of Great Expectations, Pip has "one of the guiltiest consciences in literature (p.654)". He is "disturbed by a certain discrepancy appearing in the narrative between the hero's sense of guilt and the actual amount of wrong doing for which he may be said to be responsible (p. 654)". Was Pip responsible for the death of Mrs. Joe? Of course he was not. However, it does appear to Pip that it was his fault. He begins to link himself with a criminal, says Moynahan. ... The reappearance of Magwitch's leg iron as the weapon which fells Mrs. Joe, the accident making the criminal lawyer Jaggers, whose office is beside Newgate Prison, the financial agent of his unknown patron-as signs that indicate some deep affinity between him (Pip) and a world of criminal violence (p.654). No matter that Pip is still completely innocent in any act of criminal violence, he finds the "principal of guilt by association (p.654)". He has done nothing yet to feel guilt for. But once he realizes his love for Estella, he finds something that he really should feel guilty for. Pip describes the first time he came home from Satis House as "a memorable day... for it made great changes in me and my fortunes (p.60)". Little did he know that because of his obsession for Estella, he would create great guilt inside for the way he treats others. ...read more.


Joe, the kind man he is, replies, "O dear Pip, old chap, God knows as I forgive you, if I have anything to forgive!" "Amen! And God knows I do!" echoed Biddy. When this had happened, Pip hadn't seen Joe or Biddy in eleven years. Pip now feels great guilt because he has been so unwelcoming to Joe and Biddy, and the first time he has been in need of them, they welcome him and forgive him. All of these guilty feelings towards the latter part of the book come from Pip's obsession over Estella, whether he realizes it or not. His obsession of Estella has come to the point where he has put her before almost all other people, and those people whom Pip no longer appreciates have been wronged. Now his guilt has been self inflicted. Guilt, although only one emotion, can be found in many ways. Pip finds guilt (and pity) for the whole world upon meeting Magwich for the first time. Pip has guilt basically fed to him by Mrs. Joe and Pumplechook in order for them to feel good. Pip feels guilty by association, for something he was completely innocent of. And finally Pip feels guilty for his own actions. Dickens smothered Pip with guilt of all sorts, and one would have to agree with Julian Moynahan when she states "Pip has certainly one of the most guilty consciences in literature". Bottom of Form 1 ...read more.

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