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Important themes often solidify themselves at the end of a story, as the events wrap themselves up. This is especially true in a Dickens book. At the end of the book, from chapter 50 on, there is a great pulling of threads until everything comes together. We learn about Estella’s parentage, Pip comes to face his great expectations, and Estella and Pip decide to be friends. Here are some themes brought out by these events.
Love comes in many forms.
The ending is closely concerned with love. Herbert finally gets married to Clara, because he now has the means to support her after Pip uses the last of his financial resources to secure this opportunity. Magwitch dies professing fatherly love for Pip, and Pip finally understands what it means to be a son. Estella returns to Satis House, free of the bonds of Miss Havisham, and agrees to be friends with Pip.
Thus Dickens weaves a complex picture of love. It can be pure and sweet, like Herbert Pocket, practical, like Wemmick, or twisted, like Compeyson. Love can be malicious, but it can also be healing. Finally, friendship is a very important kind of love, though it can be a sacrifice. Pip sacrifices the last of his resources for Herbert, and romantic relationship for friendship Estella.
Sometimes what we think we want is the last thing we need.
Great Expectations is the perfect example of getting your wishes granted and being completely transformed as a result. Pip wants Estella, but he has to rise in the class structure. Once he does, he finds that he has accomplished nothing except turning his back on the only people who cared about him. Pip’s worldview changes completely as the last chapters of the book unfold, maturing and becoming more accepting of himself, and settling into a safe and comfortable life.
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