Blinded by love, Pip rejects his family and background, believing that he is being groomed to be Estella’s husband by the eccentric Miss Havisham, Estella’s guardian. Clinging firmly to his great expectations, Pip snobbishly rejects those who genuinely love him, Joe and Biddy, and aligns himself with such morally questionable characters as the lawyer Jaggers, the hulking Drummle, and the half-crazed Miss Havisham. In spite of his many blunders, however, Pip remains basically good and has the good sense to make provision for the future of his best friend, Herbert Pocket.
When Pip learns that his unknown benefactor is not Miss Havisham but Abel Magwitch, a convict, who intends to claim Pip as his own, Pip recoils in distaste, and his pride suffers a severe blow. But Pip and Herbert rally themselves to try to save Magwitch, who has reentered London under threat of death. In his futile attempts to save both Miss Havisham and the convict, Pip goes through a ritualistic cleansing by fire and water and is able to make atonement for his sins. Pip’s consequent illness, which causes him to fall into a coma, is a symbolic death that makes redemption and metaphoric rebirth possible. Nursed back to health by Joe, Pip experiences new growth toward greater maturity.
Not many novels have two endings, but Great Expectations does. The original ending found Pip eleven years older, sadder and wiser, alone, but adjusted to his new life. However, Dickens changed his mind and wrote a happier conclusion in which Estella, herself greatly chastened after eleven years of...
(The entire section is 647 words.)
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