Fire Symbolism in Great Expectations

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Sharon Verhoef, 1A
Literature 1B

The Symbolic Importance of Fire in Great Expectations

Fire as a symbol can stand for a lot of different things. It represents warmth, understanding, desire and destruction. In Great Expectations fire is used repeatedly. In this novel fire plays a big role in making the reader understand more about the characters and the story.

In the beginning of the novel fire is displayed as something warm and good. You can ask yourself the question “How can fire be essential to everyday life?”. Fire is necessary to make food and heat. Joe, being a blacksmith, uses fire to forge tools and fix wagons. At the same time it stands for Joe’s own warmth and kindheartedness. In the evenings Joe relaxes in front of the fire which seems to give him some sort of comfort. In Pip’s case the fire may stand for desire and his unrequited love. He keeps seeing Estella’s face in the fire when he works as an apprentice to Joe. In chapter 36, when Jaggers needs to advise Pip about his allowance in London because he had been reckless with it, Jaggers gets up and stirs the fire, just like Joe used to do before advising Pip when he was still a young boy. This might indicate that Jaggers is actually a bit Pip’s caretaker in a way. Warmth and kindness are not the only things that fire represents in this book however.

The place where fire symbolism is used the most in the entire book is at the dark and eerie Satis House. The fire in the hearth does not seem to ever give off any warmth, just like Miss Havisham is cold and heartless. Fire can begin and end things. Fire can also stand for cleansing, getting rid of sin and start anew, but it can also destroy. Now for the question “How can fire be destructive?”. In chapter 49, a very important chapter in the novel, the answer comes forward. Pip goes to Satis House to talk to Miss Havisham, whom he finds sitting in front of the hearth staring into the fire, seemingly deep in thought. Miss Havisham asks Pip what...
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