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How do I compare and contrast Great Expectations and Romeo and Juliet?

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How do I compare and contrast Great Expectations and Romeo and Juliet?

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Great Expectations and Romeo and Juliet are both coming of age stories, and both have forbidden love at the center.

There are many similarities between the play and the novel.  In each case, we have a young boy and girl who are trying to learn how to adapt to adults’ wishes of them.  Pip and Estella each are affected by Miss Havisham’s manipulations and requirements.  Romeo and Juliet are also used as tools by their parents.

When Juliet is asked what she thinks about marriage, she gives a response that can be interpreted multiple ways.

It is an honour that I dream not of. (Act 1, Scene 3)

It sounds sarcastic to me!  She definitely does not have any say, either for who she marries or when she marries.   Similarly, Pip and Estella do not get to make their own choices.  Pip assumes that he is meant for Estella, and Estella has no control over her own future.  She pretends to be resigned to this, and even jokes with Pip about it.

“… We have no choice, you and I, but to obey our instructions. We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I.” (Ch 33, p. 181)

Pip is less aware of his manipulation until much later.  He falls hard for Estella, and is willing to do almost anything to be with her.

There are also differences between the two stories.  The main one is that while Estella and Pip were both poor orphans, Estella was raise by the wealthy Miss Havisham and Pip was brought up by his sister, a blacksmith’s wife.  Thus, while Romeo and Juliet’s families were both “alike in dignity,” Estella was Pip’s superior.

Each story is a cautionary tale about what happens when adults meddle in children's lives too much.  Sometimes when trying to make sure children turn out one way, you guarantee that they turn out unhappy.

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