1.The first turning point is Pip’s experience in the house of Ms. Havisham. Ms. Havisham wants to protect Estella from the mistakes she committed as a young woman. So, she teaches her how to hate men. Pip – innocent and good-natured – is a perfect victim. He becomes an instrument of this weird educational process.
2.The second turning point in Pip’s formation is his meeting with Jaggers, Ms. Havisham’s lawyer.
3.The third turning point in the novel is Pip’s encounter with his real benefactor, Magwitch. The escaped convict wanted to pay back his debt to Pip, he wanted to prove that his money is as good as anyone else’s money. Pip failed to observe the outside reality, becoming a prisoner of his inner universe, the universe of his emotions and aspirations.
4.The fourth turning point of the narrative is Pip’s ultimate formation. Completely mature now, he renounces his dreams about Estella ( who has been morally mutilated by Ms. Havisham) and gives up Magwitch’s money, starting a business of his own. The evil character, Compeyson who deserted Ms. Havisham in their wedding day and corrupted Magwitch, influenced directly or indirectly, in a negative way, all the destinies of the novel.
This last part of the novel resembles more the traditional melodramas, because of its highly emotional content. Great Expectations is an ironic novel that deconstructs the idea of the traditional authorship.
Everything starts with Pip’s subjectivity and is shaped out according to his wish, without the intervention of the author. Pip’s love for Estella is like an axis of the epic. Ms. Havisham looks initially like a good mother and a benefactor. Later on, Magwitch replaces her as the actual father and benefactor. The whole text becomes thus a clash between appearance and reality. In the middle we have Jaggers who knows all about everything and everyone. He turns out to be the actual alter-ego of the omniscient author. He is a deus otiosus who no longer interferes with the lives of his creatures. This is one of the strongest pre-modernist metaphors about the lost authorship in the English novel. Therefore, the novel is in fact a pyramid articulated from bottom (text) to top (author).
Many of the events from Dickens’s early life are mirrored in Great Expectations, which, apart from David Copperfield, is his most autobiographical novel. Pip, the novel’s protagonist, lives in the marsh country, works at a job he hates, considers himself too good for his surroundings, and experiences material success in London at a very early age, exactly as Dickens himself did. In addition, one of the novel’s most appealing characters, Wemmick, is a law clerk, and the law, justice, and the courts are all important components of the story.
Great Expectations is set in early Victorian England, a time when great social changes were sweeping the nation. The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries had transformed the social landscape, enabling capitalists and manufacturers to amass huge fortunes. Although social class was no longer entirely dependent on the circumstances of one’s birth, the divisions between rich and poor remained nearly as wide as ever. London, a teeming mass of humanity, lit by gas lamps at night and darkened by black clouds from smokestacks during the day, formed a sharp contrast with the nation’s sparsely populated rural areas. More and more people moved from the country to the city in search of greater economic opportunity. Throughout England, the manners of the upper class were very strict and conservative: gentlemen and ladies were expected to have thorough classical educations and to behave appropriately in innumerable social situations.
These conditions defined Dickens’s time, and they make themselves felt in almost every facet of Great Expectations. Pip’s sudden rise from country laborer to city gentleman forces him to move from one social extreme to another while dealing with the strict rules and expectations that governed Victorian England. Ironically, this novel about the desire for wealth and social advancement was written partially out of economic necessity.
In form, Great Expectations fits a pattern popular in nineteenth-century European fiction: the bildungsroman, or novel depicting growth and personal development, generally a transition from boyhood to manhood such as that experienced by Pip. The genre was popularized by Goethe with his book Wilhelm Meister (1794–1796) and became prevalent in England with such books as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and Dickens’s own David Copperfield. Each of these works, like Great Expectations, depicts a process of maturation and self-discovery through experience as a protagonist moves from childhood to adulthood.
Analysis of major characters
As a bildungsroman, Great Expectations presents the growth and development of a single character, Philip Pirrip, better known to himself and to the world as Pip. As the focus of the bildungsroman, Pip is by far the most important character in Great Expectations: he is both the protagonist, whose actions make up the main plot of the novel, and the narrator, whose thoughts and attitudes shape the reader’s perception of the story. As a result, developing an understanding of Pip’s character is perhaps the most important step in understanding Great Expectations. Because Pip is narrating his story many years after the events of the novel take place, there are really two Pips in Great Expectations: Pip the narrator and Pip the character—the voice telling the story and the person acting it out.
As a character, Pip’s two most important traits are his immature, romantic idealism and his innately good conscience. On the one hand, Pip has a deep desire to improve himself and attain any possible advancement, whether educational, moral, or social. His longing to marry Estella and join the upper classes stems from the same idealistic desire as his longing to learn to read and his fear of being punished for bad behavior: once he understands ideas like poverty, ignorance, and immorality, Pip does not want to be poor, ignorant, or immoral. Pip the narrator judges his own past actions extremely harshly, rarely giving himself credit for good deeds but angrily castigating himself for bad ones.
On the other hand, Pip is at heart a very generous and sympathetic young man, a fact that can be witnessed in his numerous acts of kindness throughout the book (helping Magwitch, secretly buying Herbert’s way into business, etc.) and his essential love for all those who love him. Pip’s main line of development in the novel may be seen as the process of learning to place his innate sense of kindness and conscience above his immature idealism.
The fact that he comes to admire Magwitch while losing Estella to the brutish nobleman Drummle ultimately forces him to realize that one’s social position is not the most important quality one possesses, and that his behavior as a gentleman has caused him to hurt the people who care about him most. Once he has learned these lessons, Pip matures into the man who narrates the novel, completing the bildungsroman.
Estella is a supremely ironic creation, one who darkly undermines the notion of romantic love and serves as a bitter criticism against the class system in which she is mired. Raised from the age of three by Miss Havisham to torment men and “break their hearts,” Estella wins Pip’s deepest love by practicing deliberate cruelty. Unlike the warm, winsome, kind heroine of a traditional love story, Estella is cold, cynical, and manipulative.
Ironically, life among the upper classes does not represent salvation for Estella. Instead, she is victimized twice by her adopted class. Rather than being raised by Magwitch, a man of great inner nobility, she is raised by Miss Havisham, who destroys her ability to express emotion and interact normally with the world. And rather than marrying the kindhearted commoner Pip, Estella marries the cruel nobleman Drummle, who treats her harshly and makes her life miserable for many years. In this way, Dickens uses Estella’s life to reinforce the idea that one’s happiness and well-being are not deeply connected to one’s social position: had Estella been poor, she might have been substantially better off.
Despite her cold behavior and the damaging influences in her life, Dickens nevertheless ensures that Estella is still a sympathetic character. By giving the reader a sense of her inner struggle to discover and act on her own feelings rather than on the imposed motives of her upbringing, Dickens gives the reader a glimpse of Estella’s inner life, which helps to explain what Pip might love about her.
Finally, Estella’s long, painful marriage to Drummle causes her to develop along the same lines as Pip—that is, she learns, through experience, to rely on and trust her inner feelings. In the final scene of the novel, she has become her own woman for the first time in the book. As she says to Pip, “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching. . . . I have been bent and broken, but—I hope—into a better shape.”
1.Ambition and self-improvement
The moral theme of Great Expectations is quite simple: affection, loyalty, and conscience are more important than social advancement, wealth, and class. Dickens establishes the theme and shows Pip learning this lesson, largely by exploring ideas of ambition and self-improvement—ideas that quickly become both the thematic center of the novel and the psychological mechanism that encourages much of Pip’s development. At heart, Pip is an idealist; whenever he can conceive of something that is better than what he already has, he immediately desires to obtain the improvement. When he sees Satis House, he longs to be a wealthy gentleman; when he thinks of his moral shortcomings, he longs to be good; when he realizes that he cannot read, he longs to learn how. Pip’s desire for self-improvement is the main source of the novel’s title: because he believes in the possibility of advancement in life, he has “great expectations” about his future.
Ambition and self-improvement take three forms in Great Expectations—moral, social, and educational; these motivate Pip’s best and his worst behavior throughout the novel. First, Pip desires moral self-improvement. He is extremely hard on himself when he acts immorally and feels powerful guilt that spurs him to act better in the future.
Second, Pip desires social self-improvement. He entertains fantasies of becoming a gentleman. The working out of this fantasy forms the basic plot of the novel; it provides Dickens the opportunity to gently satirize the class system of his era and to make a point about its capricious nature. Significantly, Pip’s life as a gentleman is no more satisfying—and certainly no more moral—than his previous life as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Third, Pip desires educational improvement. This desire is deeply connected to his social ambition and longing to marry Estella: a full education is a requirement of being a gentleman. Pip learns that social and educational improvement are irrelevant to one’s real worth and that conscience and affection are to be valued above erudition and social standing.
Dickens explores the class system of Victorian England, ranging from the most wretched criminals (Magwitch) to the poor peasants of the marsh country (Joe and Biddy) to the middle class (Pumblechook) to the very rich (Miss Havisham). The theme of social class is central to the novel’s plot and to the ultimate moral theme of the book—Pip’s realization that wealth and class are less important than affection, loyalty, and inner worth.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the novel’s treatment of social class is that the class system it portrays is based on the post-Industrial Revolution model of Victorian England. Dickens generally ignores the nobility and the hereditary aristocracy in favor of characters whose fortunes have been earned through commerce.
3.Crime, guilt and innocence
The theme of crime, guilt, and innocence is explored throughout the novel largely through the characters of the convicts and the criminal lawyer Jaggers. The imagery of crime and criminal justice pervades the book, becoming an important symbol of Pip’s inner struggle to reconcile his own inner moral conscience with the institutional justice system. In general, just as social class becomes a superficial standard of value that Pip must learn to look beyond in finding a better way to live his life, the external trappings of the criminal justice system (police, courts, jails, etc.) become a superficial standard of morality that Pip must learn to look beyond to trust his inner conscience.
Dickens’s plots involve complicated coincidences, extraordinarily tangled webs of human relationships, and highly dramatic developments in which setting, atmosphere, event, and character are all seamlessly fused.
From the earliest scenes of the novel to the last, nearly every element of Great Expectations is mirrored or doubled at some other point in the book. There are two convicts on the marsh (Magwitch and Compeyson), two invalids (Mrs. Joe and Miss Havisham), two young women who interest Pip (Biddy and Estella), and so on. There are two secret benefactors: Magwitch, who gives Pip his fortune, and Pip, who mirrors Magwitch’s action by secretly buying Herbert’s way into the mercantile business. Finally, there are two adults who seek to mold children after their own purposes: Magwitch, who wishes to “own” a gentleman and decides to make Pip one, and Miss Havisham, who raises Estella to break men’s hearts in revenge for her own broken heart. Interestingly, both of these actions are motivated by Compeyson: Magwitch resents but is nonetheless covetous of Compeyson’s social status and education, which motivates his desire to make Pip a gentleman, and Miss Havisham’s heart was broken when Compeyson left her at the altar, which motivates her desire to achieve revenge through Estella. The relationship between Miss Havisham and Compeyson—a well-born woman and a common man—further mirrors the relationship between Estella and Pip. This doubling of elements ads to the sense that everything in Pip’s world is connected.
2.Comparison of characters to inanimate objects
Throughout Great Expectations, the narrator uses images of inanimate objects to describe the physical appearance of characters—particularly minor characters, or characters with whom the narrator is not intimate. For example, Mrs. Joe looks as if she scrubs her face with a nutmeg grater, while the inscrutable features of Mr. Wemmick are repeatedly compared to a letter-box. This motif, which Dickens uses throughout his novels, may suggest a failure of empathy on the narrator’s part, or it may suggest that the character’s position in life is pressuring them to resemble a thing more than a human being. The latter interpretation would mean that the motif in general is part of a social critique, in that it implies that an institution such as the class system or the criminal justice system dehumanizes certain people.
In Satis House, Dickens creates a magnificent Gothic setting whose various elements symbolize Pip’s romantic perception of the upper class and many other themes of the book. On her decaying body, Miss Havisham’s wedding dress becomes an ironic symbol of death and degeneration. The wedding dress and the wedding feast symbolize Miss Havisham’s past, and the stopped clocks throughout the house symbolize her determined attempt to freeze time by refusing to change anything from the way it was when she was jilted on her wedding day. The brewery next to the house symbolizes the connection between commerce and wealth: Miss Havisham’s fortune is not the product of an aristocratic birth but of a recent success in industrial capitalism. Finally, the crumbling, dilapidated stones of the house, as well as the darkness and dust that pervade it, symbolize the general decadence of the lives of its inhabitants and of the upper class as a whole.
2.The mists on the marshes
The setting almost always symbolizes a theme in Great Expectations and always sets a tone that is perfectly matched to the novel’s dramatic action. The misty marshes near Pip’s childhood home in Kent, one of the most evocative of the book’s settings, are used several times to symbolize danger and uncertainty. Whenever Pip goes into the mists, something dangerous is likely to happen. Significantly, Pip must go through the mists when he travels to London shortly after receiving his fortune, alerting the reader that this apparently positive development in his life may have dangerous consequences.
Although he is a minor character in the novel, Bentley Drummle provides an important contrast with Pip and represents the arbitrary nature of class distinctions. In his mind, Pip has connected the ideas of moral, social, and educational advancement so that each depends on the others. The coarse and cruel Drummle, a member of the upper class, provides Pip with proof that social advancement has no inherent connection to intelligence or moral worth. Drummle is a lout who has inherited immense wealth, while Pip’s friend and brother-in-law Joe is a good man who works hard for the little he earns. Drummle’s negative example helps Pip to see the inner worth of characters such as Magwitch and Joe, and eventually to discard his immature fantasies about wealth and class in favor of a new understanding that is both more compassionate and more realistic.
TESS OF THE DÚRBERVILLES – THOMAS HARDY
Thomas Hardy – an architect former – is one of the outstanding Victorian writers primarily because of his most important cultural experiment. He reactivated the classical tragedy in a modern artistic context. The main artistic intention – in his epic – is to create traditional tragedies with classical heroes.
A tragedy is always a conflict whose forces cannot be reconciled; the conflict always leads to the annihilation/termination/destruction of the character who is caught at the core of the opposition; the tragic represents the aesthetic object of tragedy. From a cultural and historical viewpoint, we have several forms of tragedy:
The tragedy of destiny – is the Greek ancient form of tragedy, depicted by Aristotle in his Poetics. It is the tragedy of bad fate (fatum malus) (= the overwhelming destiny which follows the hero everywhere, finally destroying him). The character can’t escape his fate, wherever he may run or whatever he may do.
The tragedy of duality – is the neo – classical form of tragedy. It is the tragedy of the split personality, referring to an inner conflict between psychological forces linked to the nature/personality of the hero. The traditional example of clash is the opposition between passion and duty or instinct and reason. There are other antinomies which can produce tragedies of psychological duality: appearance/reality, innocence/guilt, love/hatred; this type of tragedy is internal, focusing on the hero’s divided psychology.
The tragedy of hybris/hubris – is a modern type of tragedy in which the clash may be equally internal and external. Hybris is connected with pride. The hero, in other words, is so proud, that he provokes his given limits. These limits – once broken – turn against the character and make him a tragic victim. The limit can be inner (connected to the hero’s spiritual, cultural or moral possibilities) or outer (linked to an obstacle of the exterior world, which the hero wants, unsuccessfully, to pass).
Another extremely important tragic concept is the tragic flaw, which represent a personal defect or shortcoming of the character. The tragic flaw facilitates the manifestation of the tragedy, allowing it to happen. One other important concept is the tragic situation, which illustrates the conflictual position of a character in a tragedy. This conflictual position is also called a tragically jeopardizing situation – by this, the philosopher means the fact that a tragic hero doesn’t have the possibility to choose, all his options being fatal.
Thomas Hardy combined all three forms of tragedy and elements of tragedy, leaving behind one of the most original Victorian literary construction. His novels insist much on character and environment, being sometimes romances or fantasies or, other times, melodramas and tragedies.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles represents, similarly, a combination of the three forms of tragedy: destiny, duality and hybris. In intention the novel is a tragedy of duality (Tess is dual, like Jude; she is torn between her passion that makes her surrender to Alec and her spirit which makes her appealing to Angel; as the author says, she is simultaneously a child and a woman, Mary and Magdalene; her tragic flaw is her uncontrolled instinct which makes her resonate to Alec’s advances and, finally, kill a man) and hybris, too ( Tess provokes her social and moral limit when she accepts Alec the second time, becoming a sort of urban mistress).
Thomas Hardy was born on June 2, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton in Dorset, a rural region of southwestern England that was to become the focus of his fiction. Although he built a reputation as a successful novelist, Hardy considered himself first and foremost a poet. To him, novels were primarily a means of earning a living. But Hardy cannot solely be labeled a Victorian novelist. Nor can he be categorized simply as a Modernist, in the tradition of writers like Virginia Woolf or D. H. Lawrence, who were determined to explode the conventions of nineteenth-century literature and build a new kind of novel in its place. In many respects, Hardy was trapped in the middle ground between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, between Victorian sensibilities and more modern ones, and between tradition and innovation.
InTess of the d’Urbervilles and other novels, Hardy demonstrates his deep sense of moral sympathy for England’s lower classes, particularly for rural women. He became famous for his compassionate, often controversial portrayal of young women victimized by the self-righteous rigidity of English social morality. Perhaps his most famous depiction of such a young woman is in Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
Hardy lived and wrote in a time of difficult social change, when England was making its slow and painful transition from an old-fashioned, agricultural nation to a modern, industrial one. Businessmen and entrepreneurs, or “new money,” joined the ranks of the social elite, as some families of the ancient aristocracy, or “old money,” faded into obscurity. Tess’s family in Tess of the d’Urbervilles illustrates this change, as Tess’s parents, the Durbeyfields, lose themselves in the fantasy of belonging to an ancient and aristocratic family, the d’Urbervilles. Hardy’s novel strongly suggests that such a family history is not only meaningless but also utterly undesirable. Hardy’s views on the subject were appalling to conservative and status-conscious British readers, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles was met in England with widespread controversy.
Analysis of major characters
Intelligent, strikingly attractive, and distinguished by her deep moral sensitivity and passionate intensity, Tess is indisputably the central character of the novel that bears her name. But she is also more than a distinctive individual: Hardy makes her into somewhat of a mythic heroine. Her name, formally Theresa, recalls St. Teresa of Avila, another martyr whose vision of a higher reality cost her her life. Other characters often refer to Tess in mythical terms, as when Angel calls her a “Daughter of Nature” in Chapter XVIII, or refers to her by the Greek mythological names “Artemis” and “Demeter” in Chapter XX. The narrator himself sometimes describes Tess as more than an individual woman, but as something closer to a mythical incarnation of womanhood.
In part, Tess represents the changing role of the agricultural workers in England in the late nineteenth century. Tess is a symbol of unclear and unstable notions of class in nineteenth-century Britain, where old family lines retained their earlier glamour, but where cold economic realities made sheer wealth more important than inner nobility.
Beyond her social symbolism, Tess represents fallen humanity in a religious sense, as the frequent biblical allusions in the novel remind us. Just as Tess’s clan was once glorious and powerful but is now sadly diminished, so too did the early glory of the first humans, Adam and Eve, fade with their expulsion from Eden, making humans sad shadows of what they once were. Tess thus represents what is known in Christian theology as original sin, the degraded state in which all humans live, even when—like Tess herself after killing Prince or succumbing to Alec—they are not wholly or directly responsible for the sins for which they are punished. This torment represents the most universal side of Tess: she is the myth of the human who suffers for crimes that are not her own and lives a life more degraded than she deserves.