Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Student Question

Can you provide a conclusion exploring the theme of expectations in "Great Expectations", particularly focusing on Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella, and Magwitch?

Expert Answers

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The theme of alienation and loneliness is seen in several characters. Mrs. Joe, Pip's sister, Pip himself, Estella, and Magwitch are all orphans. Pip's only friend on the marshes is Joe Gargery, and even when he goes to London, he has few real friends. Magwitch's life on the streets as a child was a nightmare for him the it's most of the reason why he turned to a life of crime. Pip's sister has no female friends, and her husband, Joe, is the only male she spends time with. She's antisocial, having very little to do with others and copes with her loneliness by being rude and violent to those around her, mainly Pip and Joe.

Pip also spends the time trying to find his own identity. He has his "great expectations", but he learns by the end, that these weren't the values he respected anymore. He learns to value his family and friends.

There are victims and those who victimize others in the book. Estella is a victim of Miss Havisham first, being taught not to love or trust anyone. Later, Estella turns the tables and victimizes Miss Havisham as well as Pip.

Another theme is social class, from the poorest to the richest. Pip wants to join the upper class and become a gentleman, but he learns that social status has nothing to do with being a good person. The criminal (Magwitch), the poor of the marshes (Joe), the middle class (Pumblechook), and the upper class (Miss Havisham) show how divided British society is.

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