- One of the themes of this story is the relationship between good and evil. It can be argued that the convict, although a criminal, does have some good qualities. Keeping this idea in mind, why do you think Dickens writes about Pip’s visions first of Estella and then of Miss Havisham in the old brewery?
In the Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations, one of the themes is the relationship between good and evil. This theme comes up many times throughout the novel. At first, Pip makes the acquaintance of the convict, Magwitch, in the old graveyard where his parents and siblings are buried. The setting is bleak and spooky, as the fog and mist flow in from the sea. This setting gives a sense of evil, or impending doom, especially as he sees the prisoner ship offshore. It is here that the convict enters, the stereotypical embodiment of evil. Despite this characterization, Pip agrees to help the convict with food and a file. The "good" Pip helps the "evil" convict. There is the first mixture of the two themes. As for Pip's visions of Estella and Miss Havisham at the old brewery, these visions can also be said to portray the relationship between good and evil. When Pip first arrives at Miss Havisham's house, the old brewery no longer in use, it is seen as an ominous presence of dark and gloom. Estella states that the house's name is Satis, meaning "enough," which it ultimately is not for Pip, Estella, or Miss Havisham herself. When Pip is left with his food in the courtyard of the old brewery, he begins to lament upon his unfortunate circumstances of being so common and the mistreatment of himself by his sister. Again, he is cared for, which is good, but not well, which is evil or "not enough" as the house name suggests. She is abusive in every way.
Pip sees a vision of Miss Havisham hanging within the confines of the house. By this time he is crying due to his thoughts of inadequacy and sense of being unloved. Then Estella suddenly appears. She then mocks him for crying which is evil. She lacks compassion and empathy. This vision denotes the ever present evil of the house and of Miss Havisham herself. After all, Miss Havisham is grooming Estella to destroy the hearts of men. These differences show that what Pip sees as a good aspect of his life, being the relationship with Miss Havisham and Estella, is actually evil hidden within. Not only within the house, but within the women themselves. The convict is evil on the surface, yet the women are evil on the inside. The vision of Miss Havisham hanging can also be seen as her punishment for her "crimes" against man and the steady manipulation of Estella as her tool of revenge against all men. Again, her behavior is ultimately evil as she seeks to destroy every man in retribution for her own jilting. The vision even happens a second time, this occasion being with Estella. The repeat of the vision of the hanging Miss Havisham is a harbinger of the disappointment and heartbreak to come, thereby solidifying the theme of evil hidden behind what Pip perceives in the characters around him.