Great Expectations Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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How is Great Expectations a gothic novel? Explain its gothic elements.

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Charles Dickens’s novel has numerous Gothic elements. There is a dark, foreboding tone in many parts, and the sinister atmosphere—especially in the watery locales—contribute to the somber aura. But it is the character of Miss Havisham and her home, Satis House, that are most strongly associated with Gothic fiction.

The book is has many mysteries, as characters’ false identities influence the plot twists and turns. Magwitch’s initial appearance, scarcely seeming human, establishes that mysterious atmosphere. The sinister settings, including those at the prison, are also those one expects in Gothic stories. In the marsh and river, with their hovering mists, actions such as the prisoner’s escape often take place under cover of night.

Miss Havisham in her home is the antithesis of wealth and luxury. Not just run-down but decaying around her, the elderly lady’s house has become more of a prison than a shrine to her memories. The reader, along with Pip, grows fascinated to learn what could have put her into such a frightful state. Her attachment not only to the past but to the doomed notion of being a bride are among the book’s most memorable elements. Dickens offers compelling descriptions of things that have gone dreadfully awry, including the rotting cake and the stopped clocks. Although Miss Havisham does not appear in many scenes, her character—along with its malevolent influence on Estella—looms over the whole book, as her bitterness threatens to destroy the naïve Pip. Her gruesome accident, intimately tied to the distorted way she lived, is also consistent with Gothic horror.

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