Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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What is Charles Dickens's message in Great Expectations?

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Dickens conveys his message through the experiences of his main character Pip, who is young, intelligent, and impressionable. Pip learns several hard truths about life, all of which may be considered part of Dickens' message. Pip's "great expectations" are all disappointed. He learns that money cannot buy happiness and certainly cannot buy love. He learns that the fine ladies and gentlemen who seem to lead such enviable lives of leisure and refinement are really mostly pretenders who contribute nothing to society and who are incapable even of supporting themselves; they are parasites who prey...

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aswans1102 | Student

Dickens explores several primary "messages" in Great Expectations. The most apparent of these is the moral corruptness, and loneliness, which comes with unrestrained ambition, social climbing, and lack of human connection. Pip’s rejection of where he comes from, shown most profoundly in his rejection of Joe, comes crumbling down when he learns that the source of his wealth and success is none other than the criminal he encountered as a boy. When he is forced to reckon with the underbelly of his success, and the loneliness and heartbreak it has brought him, he unearths Dicken’s assertion that human connection and affection is much more important than his perceived “great expectations”.

Estella’s role in the novel also emphasizes this message. The consequences of being brought up to ensnare men and break their hearts by Miss Havisham—who desired “a little girl… to love and to rear… to save from my fate”—, take their toll on Estella. She is eventually wed to a brutal man, and suffers greatly. Her avoidance of true human connection and affection nearly leaves her alone in the end. She ultimately reiterates this message during her final meeting with Pip in the novel saying, “I kept far from me, the remembrance, of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth”. Estella's endeavors to fit the role which her guardian had reared her for, had left her without what Dickens highlights as most fulfilling- human companionship. It is when Pip and Estella are able to give up the roles and expectations placed on them that they are able to truly connect, and this is when Pip finally sees "no shadow of another parting from her".