Love in Great Expectations

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“If You Can’t Be With the One You Love, Love the One You’re With”

Love, as much as any other theme or motif, drives the storyline of Dickens’ Great Expectations. As the naturalists of the era believe, characters are the products of their circumstances, and so Great Expectations is an exploration into the psychology of a young boy, based on the circumstances into which he is placed. Pip, the protagonist, is motivated by love, the love of a young girl named Estella. However, while he tirelessly pursues Estella, another young girl, Biddy, expresses her affection for him. Everything that Estella is, Biddy is not; Estella is cold and indifferent, while Biddy is warm and supportive. Estella represents an idea of perfection for Pip, who makes his entire raison d’être to win her affections. To this end, he ignores Biddy, whose love is a constant in his life. In Dickens’ Great Expectations, Pip’s idealization and love of Estella blinds him to the love that he could attain with Biddy. This blindness is caused by Pip’s misperceptions of the dichotomy between Biddy’s and Estella’s personal qualities.

Estella and Pip’s love is based on a total idolization of Estella. Ever since Pip’s first meeting with her, it was clear that she represented perfection in his eyes. Estella treated him horribly; she never responded to his advances and blatantly flirted with other men in his presence. She insulted him, from their very first interaction; however, Pip chose to misinterpret her rudeness. Instead of concluding that she was not the right match for him, he became determined that he must elevate himself, in order to win her. He started with the misconceived notion that Estella resided on some sort of lofty pedestal. He, for the first time in his life, questioned his existence, as he said,

“I took the opportunity of being alone in the courtyard to look at my coarse hands and my common boots. My opinion of those accessories was not favorable. They had...
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