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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Choose one or two characters other than Pip and discuss the influence of these characters on the development of the larger themes in Great Expectations.

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The first step in completing this assignment is to review the major themes in Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations. The novel revolves around themes like ambition and its consequences, family, social class, true happiness, and the possibility of changing one's life for the better.

Let's talk about Miss Havisham, who is a rather hate-filled woman who became bitter after her fiancé left her many years before and trains Estella to be just as cold and heartless as she is. Miss Havisham is wealthy and uses her social class almost as a weapon to torture others and destroy their happiness. She is so unhappy herself that she does not want anyone else to be happy, either. Pip has hopes that she will educate him and let him marry Estella, but he soon learns that such is not her plan at all. In the end, though, Miss Havisham does repent and ask Pip for forgiveness. She changes her life for the better but only at the very end.

We can also think about Pip's brother-in-law, Joe Gargery. Joe is a humble, loving fellow who truly cares about Pip. When Pip seems to move up in the world, he snubs Joe, which is unfortunate, since Joe, although poor, is a very good man. He sticks with his annoyingly harsh wife and does his best for Pip all along. Family means everything to him, far more than social class.

Finally, we can reflect on Abel Magwitch, the "Convict," who rewards Pip for the kindness Pip once showed to him. Magwitch has ambitions for Pip and tries to raise the young man's social standing. In the end, he faces what he has done and repents.

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