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In many respects, Pip's story is that of the prodigal son who leaves a loving home in search of wealth and that which he feels he lacks. Once he has visited Satis House, Pip is, ironically, unsatisfied, wishing that he were not "common and coarse" and that he could become a gentleman in order to earn the love and respect of Estella, his star upon which he wishes. When Mr. Jaggers arrives and announces Pip's "great expectations," Pip believes then that he will, indeed, be a gentleman.
However, what Pip has searched for in his wealth and social rise in London has always been right at home. Yet, he does not realize that what he seeks is in the heart of simple people such as Joe Gargery and the convict Magwitch until he has his "initiation by fire" that occurs when he saves Miss Havisham from dying after her dress comes too close to the fireplace.
Having been initially repulsed by the appearance of the old convict, Pip has come to appreciate the sacrifices that Magwitch has made for the boy who showed him a small kindness. His acts of kindness to Magwitch increase as he comprehends that the old convict is a victim of the prison of Victorian society in which he could be nothing but a thief because of his poverty. After Magwitch's failed attempt at escape from the country and his fatal injuries, Pip takes final leave of the man who truly loved him. As Pip holds the hand of the dying man who loved him as a father, Magwitch tells Pip, "You've never deserted me, dear boy." Pip recalls his own chains, chains of guilt:
I pressed his hand in silence, for I could not forget that I had once meant to desert him.
Then, as Magwitch passes away, Pip prays, "O Lord, be merciful to him, a sinner."
Later, in Chapter LVII when Joe mysteriously appears to the delusionary ill Pip as a result of helping Magwitch in his efforts to escape from London after he has come to visit Pip in order to reveal that he is, in fact, Pip's benefactor. As Pip regains his consciousness, he asks, "Is it Joe?" The now dear "old home voice" tells Pip it is.
O Joe, you break my heart! Look angry at me, Joe. Strike me, Joe. Tell me of my ingratitude. Don't be so good to me!”
“....Which dear old Pip, old chap,” said Joe, “you and me was ever friends. And when you're well enough to go out for a ride—what larks!”
Joe's forgiveness of Pip's cruelty in not staying in touch with him causes Pip to realize his love for this man who has been like a father to him.
For the tenderness of Joe was so beautifully proportioned to my need that i was like a child in his hands.
And, again, the chains of guilt on Pip rattle as. after Joe departs, he prays, "O God, bless him! ...bless this gentle Christian man!"
Having passed through "a burning ground" where all within him that has not been based in reality and love falls away, Pip returns to his early innocence, the innocence to which he must come back in order to be forgiven.
And now, though I know you have already done it in your own kind hearts, pray tell me, both, that you forgive mel Pray let me hear you say the words, that I may carry the sound of them away with me, and then I shall be able to believe that you can trust me, and think better of me, in the time to come!'
`O dear old Pip, old chap,' said Joe. `God knows as I forgive you, if I have anythink to forgive!'
In the end, Pip, the prodigal son returns to the forge for forgiveness, for the simple truth that love provides.
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