In Great Expectations, how does Pip's relationship with Estella change over the course of plot? What causes this change, and what significance does this have to the outcome of the book?

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Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pip’s relationship with Estella begins as playmates, arranged by Miss Havisham. Pip learns eventually that Miss Havisham’s plan is to train Estella to break men’s hearts as a means of revenge for her own broken engagement on the day of her wedding. Estella treats Pip cruelly, making fun of him for his working class ways. Yet Pip falls in love with her, despite the hurt he feels.

When they have grown up and Pip goes to live in London and become a gentleman, Estella treats him more kindly but only as a friend. Pip sees her as his ideal, but she is more interested in finding a gentleman, which she cannot accept that Pip is becoming. It is possible that, since the two of them have now become friends, Estella does not want to break his heart, despite Miss Havisham’s intentions.

After Pip finds that Miss Havisham is not his benefactor, nor did she ever intend for him to be Estella’s husband, Pip and Estella move apart. Pip no longer feels that he can be the type of gentleman that Estella desires, and Estella marries Bentley Drummle. After several years, Estella and Pip meet. Estella’s marriage, which had been abusive, is ended with Drummle’s death. This gives a hint of a promise that Estella and Pip will get together, accepting each other for what the other is, perhaps with a happy ending.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pip meets Estella when he goes to work for Miss Havisham. He is stunned by Estella’s beauty, but she looks down upon him. Estella does not see Pip as anything but a struggling lowlife and treats him with scorn. 

Although the reader might be tempted to completely blame Estella for her attitude and behavior, it is important to recognize Miss Havisham’s role in instilling those values in her. Pip falls in love with Estella, but the lady is unable to reciprocate his feelings. 

Pip believes that if he becomes a gentleman, his fortunes will change, and when the opportunity presents itself he gladly takes it and moves to London for his training. He later goes back home and visits Miss Havisham and Estella. He is informed that Estella would be coming to London, and he is expected to be her escort. The arrangements lead him to think that he was being groomed for Estella. However, Pip discovers that Estella is going to get married to Drummle, and despite his objections, Estella goes ahead and gets married. 

She suffers through an abusive marriage, and she admits that it changed her. Pip and Estella meet again, but she is widowed, and a popular ending suggests they stayed together. These changes provide valuable lessons to both characters as they learn the value of being humble.

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Great Expectations

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