How does Dickens's use of secrecy and secrets contribute to the novel as a whole?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The impact of secrets is most significant in the many contexts of deceit that impact various characters and events in Dickens's Great Expectations. Minor secrets and major secrets alike preserve the air of mystery and confusion that makes the novel so enticing to readers. For example, the reader is just as curious as Pip as to the true identity of his benefactor and everyone is in a state of wonder regarding Estella's parents.

Most poignant of all the secrets are the secrets Pip keeps when he denies truths about himself to himself. As a youngster, Pip's genuine compassion towards others is admirable, but as he matures and seeks to improve himself and to become educated, he loses track of his true self in an unpleasant way. While Pip postures as a gentleman, he loses sight of his origins and the impact they have had on him. Only when Pip is humbled by the discovery of his benefactor does Pip face the realities of his transformation and accept his secret true and original self.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Secrecy abounds in Great Expectations. Most of the characters are harboring one secret or another, and these are revealed in due course. The theme of secrecy has two main purposes. Firstly, it heightens tension, which keeps us interested. We sense that things are not always as they seem and that there's always something going on beneath the surface. We keep on reading because we want to find out which secrets are being kept and why.

The second purpose is to give the characters greater dimension. Miss Havisham is a remarkable character as she is, but the revelation of her secret to Pip makes her, if anything, even more fascinating. And Abel Magwitch is larger-than-life right from the get-go, but again, his own extraordinary secrets add depth to an already intriguing character.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial