Real or Fake?: Character Foils in Great Expectations

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Real or Fake?: Character Foils in Great Expectations

One of the most remarkable aspects of Charles Dickens Great Expectations is its structural intricacy and remarkable balance. Dickens plot involves complicated coincidences, extraordinary tangled webs of human relationships, and highly dramatic developments in which setting, atmosphere, event and character are all seamlessly fused. Although, perhaps the most visible sign of Dickens commitment to intricate dramatic symmetry-apart from the knot of character relationships, of course- is the fascinating motif of character doubles or foils that run through the novel. The use of character doubles or foils in the novel effectively let readers understand important aspects and messages of the novel. Throughout the novel the foils of different characters give readers the opportunity to learn important messages about class, happiness, superficiality, satisfaction, greed, crime, punishment and money.

The effect of class and superficiality on a person are clearly identified in the foil and comparison of Biddy and Estella. Biddy and Estella are both friends of Pip that take a key role in Pip’s life, but their level of compassion, attitude towards rank in society and their relationship with Pip, and overall happiness in life are very different. Biddy is a character that is considered common and not very beautiful on the outside but expresses a lot of inner beauty. She is kind and compassionate and understanding. Pip recounts Estella’s physical features, “ She was most noticeable I thought, in respect of her extremities; for, her hair always wanted brushing, her hands always wanted washing, and her shoes always wanted mending and pulling up at the heel” (Dickens, 45). This shows that Pip makes note that Estella is not beautiful. On the contrary Estella is a character that tends to be a snob although she expresses a lot of outer beauty. This relates to the message of superficiality. Although Estella is beautiful what is more important is the way in which you treat other people. As a result Estella can be considered superficial where as Biddy is real. Biddy is very kind and compassionate this is shown in the scene where Pip and herself are by the river, and she still shows her love towards Pip even though he says rude things like, “I should have been good enough for you; shouldn’t I Biddy? (Dickens, 136). Biddy is very easy going and allows Pip to be disrespectful although his comments hurt her. This shows that unlike Estella, Biddy is a very good friend who allows Pip to take her frustrations out on her, without saying rude things back. In his heart Pip knows fully well that Biddy is the ideal soul mate and wife for him, but he is completely overwhelmed by his foolish infatuation for Estella. This quote, “ The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella with the love of a man, I loved her simply because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I loved her none the less because I knew it, and it had no influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection” (Dickens, 245-246). This shows that Pip realizes that he shouldn’t love Estella, they weren’t meant for each other and the only reason he is drawn to her is because of her beauty. This passage infers that Biddy would have a much better match for Pip. Biddy unlike Estella was never insulting or capricious and wonders, “How could it be, then that I didn’t like her much better than the two” (Dickens, 276). Biddy is unaffected by class and doesn’t care less about it. When Pip is a blacksmith she loves him. He is very kind and not condescending. When he is exposed to a higher class he becomes much more condescending and jaded, and she falls in love with Joe who is a lower class blacksmith. Biddy...
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