Great Expectations Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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What is an example of an analysis of Great Expectations using Structuralism?

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Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Structuralism is a style of interpretation that deals with metaphors and imagery—the idea that "structure is more important than function", or that the way a story is laid out and the imagery that is placed inside of it is more important than some of the other details.

Examining some of that imagery, we can see the story shaped by Miss Havisham. She lives in a decrepit house, wears an ancient wedding gown, and still maintains a decade-old rotted wedding cake because of her loneliness and bitterness. This is important to her story, but it is also representative of the story at large: it portrays broken dreams, that the characters's "great expectations" will invariably fall short. It sets the story up for disappointment, but it gives hope for redemption through Pip. He is brought to the house, and Miss Havisham attempts to breed him into a bitter and disappointed man, but he maintains hope and tries to grow and better himself. Even when his wealth fails and his hopes crash around him, the story ends hopefully, with him trying to start his life anew—reversing the bitter trend of the previous generation of the story.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the main components of structuralism is symbolism and metonymy.  In Great Expectations, everything is a symbol.  The focus is “symbolic, a structure that has nothing to do with perceptible forms” (enotes, see second link).  An example of this is how Pip is introduced in the beginning of the story in a cemetery on the marshes.

As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. (ch 1)

The placement and introduction of Pip in the cemetery is relevant.  Pip exists in a dim, gothic world.  He is always separate, almost like a ghost or not quite human.  Pip is distancing himself from his reality.

Pip also uses metonymy when he describes himself as “the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry” (ch 1).  Pip is not literally described, but metaphorically and symbolically described so he just disappears into the landcape.

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