The loneliness and isolation of a person can only be redeemed by loving others and this is fully supported in the novel Great Expectations. Throughout the storyline, we find Pip, the protagonist, being encircled by love and rejection, or hate and affection. The aspect of love in this text covers a wide range of individuals, his sister, Joe, Biddy, Estella and Magwitch. Pip is deeply influenced by his beloved and the quality of love change over the course of the novel.
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Charles Dickens, in his novel Great Expectations, portrays a story about the quest of a character towards maturity. The journey starts from childhood to subsequent adulthood. The story follows an orphan Pip when he is only seven years old and ends as Pip becomes a gentleman. The time span of the novel is from 1812 to the winter of 1840 (Tyree 95-105). “Love” is one of the major themes of Charles Dicken’s novel “Great Expectations”.
Relation with Estella
The most important love relation in the text is Pip and Estella. Pip’s relationship with Estella started when he goes to work for Miss Havisham, who in the words of the author is “a rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house” (Dickens 66). Here he meets, Estella, a very charming girl according to him and instantly falls in love with her. “Throughout the story, Pip will love her” (Connor 762-771).
Later when he meets Estella after few years he finds she is grown up and she is more beautiful. Though Pip does not get any better treatment from her, she remains in a special place in his heart (Ingham 753-768). Narrator Pip describes his relationship with Estella in beautiful words, “I suffered every kind and degree of torture that Estella could cause me” (Dickens 76). Pip wants to marry Estella but she refuses straightly as she is getting ready to marry Drummle.
During the course of the novel, Pip works hard to make his way through society and goes away overseas for work and develops him immensely. Eleven years later, he returns to London. After paying a visit to old friends he goes to the Satis House. And accidentally he meets Estella there. “She tells that Drummle had treated her roughly and recently deceased. She also tells Pip that she now understands the pain of heartbreak and she asks Pip for forgiveness” (Ingham 753-768). The two gets united and in Pips words, “I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, …., I saw no shadow of another parting from her” (Dickens 323).
It can be said that Pip’s attraction towards Estella is primarily sexual. “He envisioning Estella as a captive princess and himself as the heroic knight and he believes that only he can awaken love in her heart” (Jordan 1211-1223). And this is even mentioned in the novel. For Pip, her love and rejection were all along with the text, “I had loved Estella dearly and long, and that although I had lost her, and must live a bereaved life” (Dickens 295) or the pain she caused for him, “And then I thought of Estella, and of our parting, and went home very sadly. All things were as quiet in the Temple as ever I had seen them” (Dickens 272).
At certain points of the novel, Pip even thought of discarding her pursuit, “all a mere dream; Estella not designed for me; I only suffered in Satis House as a convenience, a sting for the greedy relations” (Dickens 232). Lastly, both of them after suffering a lot in their personal lives understand their faults and joined together (Welburn 218-229).
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Joe and Pip’s transition
Pip’s development from a shabby teenager to a gentleman, worthy of social respect is only because he wanted to be equal with Estella and however, she always insulted him in the course of the novel, the quest for her love has been the driving force in Pip’s life. Estella is also encouraged to break the heart of Pip by Haversham. Even due to her snobbish nature Estella becomes isolated herself too. “She even has a loveless marriage to Drummle” (Ingham 753-768). In the search for a gentleman’s life, Pip also distanced himself from Joe and Biddy.
“Love in the context of human relationships in the novel is best shown through the eyes of Pip” (Jordan 1211-1223). The relationship between Pip and Joe as a child was more than like a companion rather than a guardian. However, along the course of the text, Pip becomes critical of Joe (McClure 23-44). Later “even Pip is embarrassed by the commonness of Joe and strictly avoided his company” (Jordan 1211-1223). Pip himself admits that Joe is more gentleman than Pip himself.
Pip’s love for Joe is fundamentally the love of friendship even it is seen that he tends to dislike Joe’s social position as a blacksmith. Pip considers Joe as a true friend because only with the company of Joe do we find him to be completely honest. However, it is Joe’s love in the initial stages that influenced him to become a gentleman. The transition of their relation flourished when Pip became a gentleman. However, at the end of the text, we find them coming close as friends once again when Pip understood his faults.
Relation with Biddy
In the case of Biddy, it was different. Pip never clearly loved Biddy as he always compared her with Estella particularly when he was rejected by Estella, “I complicated its confusion fifty thousand-fold, by having states and seasons when I was clear that Biddy was immeasurably better than Estella” (Dickens 96). However, Biddy always loved Pip. When Pip decided to marry her, she was already married to Joe and both of them were happy together. Biddy is one of the best examples of silent love in English literature. Pip, after losing his fortunes, thinks of Biddy’s good qualities and that tells a lot of his inability of reading the character of a person. From the point of view of Biddy, she has had a good life with equal partner Joe. Biddy’s love for Pip is a direct influence on him in the absence of Estella, and Pip’s view of Biddy is the probable replacement of Estella but Biddy’s love is never enough for Pip and the rejections throughout the text prove it (Jordan 1211-1223).
Magwitch’s love and influence
Magwitch is the original benefactor of Pip and the main reason for his inspiration of becoming a gentleman. Pip’s kindness towards Magwitch in the first chapter is never forgotten by the latter and there was a fatherly love towards the boy. However, from Pip’s perspective, Magwitch was mostly taken for granted even though he owes him everything for his social mobilization. Love in this case is fundamentally one-sided and it is Magwitch who loves Pip and not really the other way around.
The opposite is seen in the case of Pip’s sister. She was responsible for bringing up Pip after the early demise of his parents. However, we find her to be extremely hot-tempered and unkind. Her nature was not entirely directed towards Pip but in general. She used to beat Pip in the presence or in absence of his mistakes as she considered Pip as an added burden. Here the concept of love is a tricky element. Never in the text do we find any real kind words for Pip even though from Pip’s point of view, he never hated her. She was the replacement of his mother. This feeling never changed over the course of the novel and there was no such positive influence of her love towards Pip. However, it can be stated that Pip’s journey to London was partly because of his sister as Pip felt it would be an easier life without the presence of her sister (Jordan 1211-1223).
In general, love has changed in the course of the novel. In the very beginning, Pip is infatuated by Estella and this is a very common factor in the adolescent age. There is also some relationship between his adopted parents who do not love each other. These types of loveless marriages can be seen at the end of the marriage of Estella and Drummle. On the other hand, Biddy really loves Pip and he is unable to understand that. If love can make people reach in higher society then Pip’s devotion to Estella is wonderful. But as Pip ventures out to be the gentleman, he slowly loses all his aids of childhood, and he ultimately becomes isolated in life (Jordan 1211-1223).
When he later returns to England he thinks of marrying Biddy but she in the meantime has married Joe and they have changed into a really good couple, who cares for each other and more important has love for each other. Ultimately Pip finds out Estella who is also suffering from isolation and they find comfort in each other. This marks the journey of Pip (Ingham 753-768).
Pip’s life can be summed as a journey in the quest for his love. In the journey, he never looked to anyone and always wanted to reach his dream of being a gentleman. He is mostly supported by his good lucks, as the convict he saved has been provided with monthly stipends so that he can live peacefully in London. Magwitch’s contribution can not be overlooked in this case. He always stayed indebted to Pip as he once saved his life (Jordan 1211-1223).
Thus, we can see the quality of love changes over the course of the novel and it becomes more mature in every step. The juvenile love towards Estella concludes into mature love. Friendship and love towards Joe changed into the understanding of two men. Biddy’s love changed into the parameters of family goodwill and Magwitch’s love for Pip changed from thankfulness to fatherly love. In a way, Pip’s sister’s love for Pip also changed as she became comparatively soberer towards Pip at the latter stages of the novel.
In conclusion, it can be seen that love is not only loving between a man and a woman. Love can be of different types, and this novel is a study of different types of life and how they affect the life of the protagonist. Love also knows to make amendments and it is also clear in this novel too (Jordan 1211-1223). The depiction of love in Victorian England and how the social structures affect love is one of the most prominent topics of the novel that makes it a timeless classic. It is the availability of love, acceptance of love, rejection of love and the ultimate transition of love that becomes significant in the text and evokes mature love at the end of the novel.
Connor, Steve. Dickens, The Haunting Man. Literature Compass 1.1, (2004): 762-771.
Dickens, Charles. Great expectations, Volumes 1-2. London: B. Tauchnitz, 1861.
Ingham, Graham. The superego, narcissism and ‘Great Expectations’. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 88.3, (2007): 753-768.
Jordan, John O. Global Dickens. Literature Compass 6.6, (2009): 1211-1223.
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McClure, Joyce K. Seeing Through the Fog: Love and Injustice in ‘Great Expectations’. Journal of Religious Ethics 31.1, (2004): 23-44.
Tyree, Andrea. The Dickensian Occupational Structure. Sociological Inquiry 41.1, (1971): 95-105.
Welburn, Elizabeth. In Such a State of Ink: Adolescents in the Novels of Charles Dickens. Literature Compass 3.2, (2006): 218-229.