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In Great Expectations, why does Pip love Estella?

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hsato | eNotes Employee

Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:27 PM via web

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In Great Expectations, why does Pip love Estella?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 4, 2013 at 11:50 PM (Answer #1)

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In the final chapter of Great Expectations, Pip visits Satis House where he encounters Estella, whom he has not seen for years.

The freshness of her beauty was indeed gone, but its indescribable majesty and its indescribable charm remained.

Her "majesty" and her "charm" are what Pip has always loved. Upon first seeing Estella, whose name denotes "star," Pip is struck by what he perceives as her superiority, a "majesty" that holds a magical "charm," in the sense of allurement, for Pip.

On the day of his first visit to Satis House, little Pip, whose entire world has only been the forge and the marshes, is mesmerized by the beauty of the young lady who leads him up the stairs to the strange room where an even stranger Miss Havisham sits. And, when Estella demeans him as "a common laboring boy," Pip's hyper-imaginativeness and exisential sense generates Estella into a paragon of beauty and social class, the goal to which he must aspire or be inferior:

I took the opportunity of being alone to look at my coarse hands and my common boots. They had never troubled me before, but they troubled me now....I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too.

With Estella as representative of the pinnacle of his aspirations, Pip fails to perceive any faults in her. Instead, encouraged by Miss Havisham to "love her, love her!" he commences his efforts to become a gentleman in order to be worthy of her. Estella, the star," is the wish, the unattainable desire, the reach which exceeds Pip's grasp. Indeed, she is one of his illusionary "great expectations" as Estella is the mere daughter of two convicts, a common person albeit one who possesses uncommon beauty. And, yet, in his romanticized vision of love, Pip retains his perception of "majesty" and "charm" in Estella to the very end.

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