Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

Start Free Trial

In many Victorian novels, the young protagonist experiences a discrepancy between the real world and their expectations. What does "discrepancy mean"? Why is it important in Great Expectations and Jane Eyre?

Expert Answers

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

Great Expectations and Jane Eyre are alike in that both protagonists begin with low expectations of what their lives will be. Both are dependent orphans with no money. Pip is treated harshly by the older sister he lives with and has no aspirations higher than to become a village blacksmith like his beloved Joe. Jane lives with her aunt, who resents her, and cousins who abuse her. After attending Lowood School, she expects no more than to be a governess.

Both face a discrepancy, however, as their expectations rise. Pip finds out he has a secret benefactor who is financing him to become a gentleman. He assumes this is Miss Havisham and that she is grooming him to become the husband of Estella, with whom he is in love. It is a shock for him when he finds out this is not so and that his benefactor is Magwitch, the convict. His hopes of marrying Estella are dashed, and he is in the unhappy position of not wanting to take money from a criminal. (He will come to appreciate and care for Magwitch later.)

Likewise, Jane faces a discrepancy when she finds out that her marriage to Rochester—which represents a great rise in status for her—would be bigamous because he is already married to Bertha Mason. She is in love with him but refuses to put herself in a dishonest and morally compromised situation. She runs from Rochester at great risk to herself.

Both characters learn, grow, and become stronger from the discrepancies they face between their expectations and reality.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team