Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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What are lessons you can find in Great Expectations and apply to our lives today?

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Pip has many expectations, but I think the main expectation in Dickens' novel, and the one to which the title refers, is that Miss Havisham is going to do something wonderful for him. When he learns about his great expectations from Mr. Jagger, Pip naturally assumes that it is Miss Havisham who is his benefactor. He guesses that she wants to turn him into a gentleman, then have him marry Estella, and finally leave him all her money, so that he can enjoy a life of ease and luxury with a beautiful wife. In the process of becoming a "gentleman" he experiences some disillusionments, but there are incidental to the main expectation that he is going to be married to Estella and inherit a fortune. Neither Miss Havisham nor her lawyer Mr. Jagger say anything to discourage him. Jaggers has to keep silent for professional reasons. Miss Havisham's motives are harder to understand. She knows what Pip expects of her and doesn't tell him the truth. But he is in for a terrible shock when Magwitch, his real benefactor, shows up on a cold, rainy night. Dickens must have planned that scene from the time he began writing the novel. Pip's whole life and perspective are changed by the fact that his social status was dependent on one person rather than another.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One lesson is that money does not buy happiness.  Pip assumes that he is miserable because he is poor, and Estella will care for him once he is rich.  Neither is true.  Money does not make Pip happy, it only confuses him.  Everyone wants him to become a gentleman, but he learns that gentlemen are not necessarily happy, and it is not necessarily right for him.

Another lesson is that love is painful.  Most of the cases of romantic love are passionate and one-sided.  All of the passionate loves in this book turn out badly.  It is almost as if Dickens is saying to us that love is a myth.  Find someone you are comfortable with, and you'll be happy.  Chase someone you're passionate for, and you'll be miserable.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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What a broad question! I guess your answer to this is obviously going to depend on what you personally "took" from the novel, but for me my two lessons are based around the nature of a true "gentleman" and secondly the danger of trying to manipulate and interfere with somebody else's life.

One of the central themes of the novel is based on the difference between gentlemen and gentle men. The difference is key. We have characters such as Compeyson who are clearly gentlemen and yet are shown to be lacking in any true moral fibre - just because they know how to dress and act in high society does not make one a gentleman, Dickens seems to be arguing. On the other hand, we have a character such as Joe, who laughably does definitely not fit into the character of "gentlemen" - just take his first visit to Pip in London - and yet is imbued with such dignity and gentleness as to clearly denote him of being of higher moral calibre than characters such as Compeyson, and even of Pip himself. Money and social understanding are not the only exclusive ingredients to produce gentlemen - the message is clear.

Secondly, the novel shows the danger of interfering in somebody elses life and trying to force another person into the shape of your choosing. Whilst this is exhibited in the relationship between Magwitch and his desire to...

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pleasehelpme2424 | Student

Meant our lives today?

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sandydd | Student

There are many moral lessons in this novel. The main one is that wealth cannot bring happiness. and that appearances can misrepresent reality. When Pip visit the Satis House, everything contradicts what Pip's definition of rich. It is a worn-old house and sunshine never comes in the house. Estella has been raised to led an unhappy life, cruel and incapable of love. In later chapters, Pip will meet a convict, Magwitch. During that time, convicts are regard as being bad. However, Magwith turns out to be a compassionate man who works hard to give "expectations" to Pip in return for his kindness Pip shown when Pip give food to him many years ago.

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