In the final chapter Estella says to Pip: "Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching". Discuss the theme of suffering in this book,- specifically how it instructs Pip, Miss Havisham and...

In the final chapter Estella says to Pip: "Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching". Discuss the theme of suffering in this book,

- specifically how it instructs Pip, Miss Havisham and Estella.

lit24 | Student

1. Pip: Pip suffers both physically and emotionally from the beginning of the novel till its end. The novel begins with Pip being physically manhandled by Magwitch who holds him upside down. Throughout the novel Pip is physically and verbally and emotionally abused and humiliated by several people - his sister, Pumblechook, Miss Havisham, Bentley Drummle. In ch.9 we read of how all the adults bang poor Pip's head against the wall to make him relate what exactly he saw in Miss Havisham's house: "whitewash on the forehead hardens the brain into a state of obstinacy perhaps." And in ch.4 we find Pip summing up the pathetic state of his life:

"I was always treated as if I had insisted on being born, in opposition to the dictates of reason, religion, and morality, and against the dissuading arguments of my best friends."

This suffering continues till the end of the novel when he falls hopelessly in love with Estella only to be rejected by her, and to add insult to injury she marries his enemy Bentley Drummle.In ch.44 he pours out his heart to Estella and concludes mournfully:

"the rhapsody welled up within me like blood from an inward wound and gushed out."

In ch.49 he is almost burnt to death by trying to save Miss Havisham and till Joe comes and takes care of him he is in severe pain.

2. Miss Havisham: Miss Havisham suffers because she is cheated by her false lover Compeyson on her wedding day. Compeyson together with Arthur Havisham the half brother of Miss Havisham swindle all her money with the false promise that he will marry her. But on her wedding day he fails to turn up. Miss Havisham from that day locks herself up in her room and gradually disintegrates both physically and mentally. In Ch.8 Pip compares her to a 'living' corpse:

"now waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me."

In Ch.49 she is injured in a fire accident and in spite of Pip's best efforts she later dies.

3. Estella: Estella is the daughter of Magwitch and Molly. She is separated at birth from her mother by Jaggers and handed over to Miss Havisham her foster mother.  But unfortunately Estella instead of enjoying the love and affection of her "mother by adoption," ch.38  is used by her as an instrument of revenge against all men. She is constantly, mentally and emotionally abused by Miss Havisham and she reveals her mental anguish  in Ch.33:

"you did not gradually open your round childish eyes wider and wider to the discovery of that impostor of a woman."


Finally, she marries Bentley Drummle who abuses her physically and mentally and is relieved when he finally dies in an accident. Ch.59:

"I had heard of her as leading a most unhappy life and as being separated from her husband, who had used with great cruelty."

To conclude, suffering is indeed an important theme in "Great Expectations," especially in the lives of its three most important characters.

Read the study guide:
Great Expectations

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