Choose three of the below themes from Great Expectations. How does Dickens use the characters, actions and circumstances to teach them?
Appearances vs. reality; the outcast and society; justice and the law; the value of friendship; the materialistic society; the dignity of labor; the corrupting influence of social position; wealth; and human worth.
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Appearances vs. Reality: Dickens has several characters that promote the theme that appearances are not necessarily a reflection of one's character. Take Magwitch, for example. He is a dirty, unkempt, uncouth criminal, right? Well, he ends up being Pip's benefactor, and someone who was greatly moved by one act of kindness from a small boy. He also had suffered great tragedy in his life, and ended up being the father of the beautiful, elegant and well-established Estella. All of these things could not be predicted by his character. Dickens teaches that we should not judge someone on appearances, but rather on their actions. Magwitch's actions show a man seeking redemption, and offering kindess.
The dignity of labor can best be seen through the character of Joe. He is an unassuming man without too much intelligence or grace, but he's a hard worker, and provides a good and solid living for his family. As Pip rejects Joe, leaves the forge, and pursues more "worthy" company and tasks, he is utterly miserable. It isn't until Pip acknowledges the dignity of working with one's hands to earn a living, and Joe's goodness as a man that he finds happiness. Constrast Joe's happiness and station in life to Pip's, after his money--Pip has nothing to do. He just reads books, spends money frivolously, and has no dignity because he does not labor. At the end of the novel he finally puts his talents to use in business, and finds peace. Dickens is asserting that working is a dignified path to happiness, peace and good character.
The value of friendship is a theme that runs throughout the novel. Pip's best friends are Joe and Biddy; when he rejects them, he is unhappy. He finds another friend in Herbert Jr., who accepts him for who he is, and Pip finds great comfort in that friendship. Dickens has a theme of friendship as being a key to happiness, and that friendship should be free of judgment and criticism.
I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!
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