Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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What are some symbols and motifs present in Great Expectations from Chapters 31-45?

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There are many symbols and motifs throughout Dickens' famous work, a few of which can be found in Chapters 31-45. For example, Dickens uses the motif of "doubles" or "mirrors" throughout the entire novel. This means that there are many relationships depicted in the book which seem to mirror each other, as well as pairs of things, whether they be objects, concepts, or people that seem to show up time and time again. One small example of this motif would be on pages 311 and 312 when he makes mention of being paired up "two and two" and filing out of the room "two and two."

Another allusion to this appears in the relationship between Pip and Magwitch, two characters who become "secret" benefactors. On pg. 368, Pip makes the startling revelation: "I have been informed by a person named Abel Magwitch that he is the benefactor so long unknown to me." From there, Pip goes on to become a secret benefactor of his own, inspired by this act of selflessness and kindness. In many ways, their experiences mirror one another's. Similarly, the relationship between Compeyson and Havisham mirrors that of Pip and Estella, mostly due to the influence of Mrs. Havisham. This is demonstrated on pages 334-336, when Pip realizes this for himself: “I saw in this, that Estella was set to wreak Miss Havisham's revenge on men….” Everything in Pip's life can be characterized as a series of connections, of parallels that he is able to draw. 

On pages 338-340, Pip makes certain observations which include both a physical description of Mrs. Havisham's person and Satis House, a gothic throwback which transports Pip to another time and place. These two things symbolize death and decay, but they also symbolize the halting of time that occurs when we keep the same expectations and hold on to them too tightly. It is a literal effort on the part of Mrs. Havisham to freeze time. His description of her faded bridal relics and decaying, mildewed bridal feast signify both our inability to freeze time, and our inability to hold on to the decadence that we as a society value above all else. 

Another major symbol that is show in chapters 35-41 is the mist which gathers on the marsh that Pip must cross whenever something important occurs in his life. They are a symbol of the danger and uncertainty which life's various changes can sometimes bring to a person. In this case, one never knows what one might find on the other side of the mist. So it is with Pip in his own life; the world in which he lives is so often uncertain. As Pip himself says, “Once more the mists were rising as I walked away. If they disclosed to me, as I suspect they did, that I should not come buck, and that Biddy was quite right, all I can say is—they were quite right too." (317)

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