How do the characters' names (symbolism) illustrate the themes in the novel?- please help me, i don't understand

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Dickens often uses symbolic names, but Great Expectations is probably the best example of his doing so.

Pip's name is, of course, the most symbolic.  His nickname means "seed," and the novel is about Pip's growth and maturity.  It is a Bildungsroman which is a work about the maturation of an individual.  Like a seed, Pip is "planted," and the reader witnesses his growth.

Miss Havisham's name is rather ambiguous.  One could interpret it to be "have a shame."  She was so shamed by being jilted that the weight of that shame alters her entire existence. More in keeping, however, with her vengeful nature is a second interpretation of "have a sham."  Miss Havisham puts on a sham by luring men toward Estella, raising their hopes, and then encouraging Estella to break their hearts.  She also allows Pip to believe the sham that she is his mysterious benefactress.

Estella's name in one of the most fitting.  "Stella" means "star."  Estella, like a star, is bright and beautiful.  Men love to gaze upon her, but she is untouchable.  As a star, she is cold and distant, and no one can get close enough to know her fully.

I hope this helps you with a few.  To figure out the symbolism of other names (not all of them are symbolic), don't hesitate to break the names into parts, consider allusions, or match up the meanings of stems and roots with the names.

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