Essay, Research Paper: Great Expectations And Symbolism

Literature: Charles Dickens

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In life, symbolism is present all around us. Whether it is in the clothes we
wear, the things we do, or what we buy, everything has a meaning. Symbolism is
also present in literature and it is shown in Charles Dickens Great
Expectations. The symbols of isolation, manipulation, the tragic hero, and
wanting to be someone else are seen throughout the book through the characters
of Estella, Magwitch, Miss Havisham, and Pip. The character of Estella
represents the symbols of isolation and manipulation. By acting as an adult when
she was still young, she separated herself from Pip and others. This was due in
large part to the way Miss Havisham, her stepmother, raised her. She had no
emotion, as Miss Havisham used her for revenge on men. On his first visit to the
Satis House, Pip overheard Miss Havisham tell Estella "Well? You can break
his heart." [65]. By doing what Miss Havisham tells her to, she shows she
is just as heartless as her stepmother. She also represents manipulation in how
she played with Pip's feelings, who has strong feelings for her eventhough he
also cannot stand her. She tells Pip "Come here! You may kiss me if you
like." [102]. Although the kiss may have meant a lot to Pip, it did not
mean anything to Estella as she was just playing with Pip's emotions. The
character of Magwitch represents the symbols of isolation and the tragic hero.
In this case, he was physically isolated from society because he was a convict
and was looked upon with disgust. When Magwitch confesses and apologizes to Joe
for stealing the food, Joe replies "poor miserable fellow creatur."
[43]. Magwitch also illustrates the symbol of the tragic hero. Throughout most
of the book, Magwitch is looked down upon by Pip. Magwitch talks about his
gratitude for Pip when he helped him as a convict many years ago. "You
acted noble, my boy," said he. [356]. "Noble Pip! And I have never
forgot it!" [356]. He shows why he is a hero when he explains to Pip that
he was the benefactor and the one responsible for making him a gentleman and
helping him achieve his great expectations. "Yes, Pip, dear boy, I've made
a gentleman on you! It's me wot done it!" [359-360]. After his death,
however, Pip feels guilt and sadness when he learns what Magwitch spent most of
his life trying do. As a result, he shows the readers why he was the tragic
hero. One character who represents the symbols of isolation and manipulation is
Miss Havisham. For most of her life, she has refused to let go of her past as
she continues to wear her wedding dress and keep her wedding cake. Her decaying
dress and cake are symbols of how her life rotted away. It also depicted the
state of the Satis House, where she was isolated from the rest of society. The
house is used as a metaphor to show how they decayed and crumbled as time passed
on. Miss Havisham also illustrates the symbol of manipulation. She had raised
Estella as a heartless stepdaughter whose main purpose was to seek revenge on
men. This central motivation of revenge resulted from the fact that she was a
rejected lover. Her plan is shown when she tells Estella to go play with Pip.
"Well? You can break his heart." [65]. As a result, she made Estella
into a human monster with no emotion. Near the end, Miss Havisham dies a
hopeless neurotic. The one character who shows the symbol of how people always
want to be someone else but than decide they are better off with whom they are
is Pip, the story's protagonist. As a boy, Pip wishes to be a gentleman. With
unknown help from Magwitch the convict, Pip's dreams come true. After attaining
his fortune and his expectations, Pip is miserable. "As I had grown
accustomed to my expectations, I had intensibly begun to notice their effect
upon myself and those around me." [305]. He noticed the negative effects as
he was in debt because of his lavish spending and he also realized how much he
neglected Joe and Biddy, his two best friends as a kid. In the end, Pip changes
as he becomes a loyal friend to Magwitch in his time of need, tries to repair
his relationship with Joe and Biddy, and goes from almost total destruction to
moderate business success. He also shows how people gain from giving. The only
good fortune from the money he received from his private benefactor, Magwitch,
was giving it to Herbert. As shown from the examples above, symbolism plays an
important part in Charles Dickens Great Expectations. Many symbols such as
isolation, manipulation, the tragic hero, and wanting to be someone else are
present throughout the novel and are brought to life by the characters. People
in today's society must realize that a lot of what we do symbolizes something
about us and helps explain who we are as people.
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