Great Expectations Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Throughout the story, Charles Dickens constantly uses fire as a motif, especially in Chapter 49. What's the symbolic/thematic significance of fire?

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An integral part of life in the setting of "Great Expectations," fire is a necessity as food and heat are made.While fire provides a livelihood for Joe on the forge, Joe relaxes in its comfort in the evenings.Yet, while fire provides comfort at times, it is also destructive.  In Chapter 36, before Jaggers advises Pip of his destructive recklessness with his allowance in London, the lawyer gets up and stirs the fire, just as Joe has stirred the fire before he counsels with Pip as a child. 

Fire begins and ends things; it can cleanse an area for new growth, but it can also destroy.  In Chapter 49 both these meanings of fire are present.  When Pip calls upon Miss Havisham she sits brooding into the fire.  Without leaving her fixation upon the fire Miss Havisham asks Pip what she can do for him; finally, after writing instructions to...

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