Romance and Realism in Great Expectations

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  • Topic: Great Expectations, Miss Havisham, Charles Dickens
  • Pages : 5 (1933 words )
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  • Published : June 5, 2012
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Great Expectations a novel by Charles Dickens takes reader on an epic adventure filled with unexpected encounters with a myriad of people with vastly different backgrounds that ultimately shape Pip into the man that he becomes. Pip moves from the social class that he was born to, to one that he is elevated to by an anonymous benefactor. The two people that typify the conventional expectations of romanticism and realism are Pip the protagonist and Joe Gargery the humble blacksmith. Joe clearly shows his love for Pip the entire way through the book, a love that is only acknowledged or valued until the closing pages of the book. We will look at Pip’s journey from extravagance and utter self indulgence to his ultimate enlightenment and self fulfillment.

Great Expectations is narrated by an older mature Phillip Pirrip or Pip and is his reflections and recollections of his childhood through his emerging expectation, to adulthood, often seen to make fun of his younger self. Pip was reared by hand by his older malevolent sister and her meek and submissive husband Joe Gargery, after the death of his parents. The protagonist always refers to his sister as Mrs Joe, showing the reader how domineering and heavy handed she is towards not only Pip but her husband Joe. She affords little compassion or kindness to either male and you start to see the difference between the characters and their reactions to her in relation to the conventions of romance and realism. Joe lending himself to looking at life through the eyes of a realist satisfied knowing his place, where as Pip being more romantic, dreams of escape and leaving the marches for a better life. Pip was apprenticed to his brother-in –law Joe the village blacksmith, when his direction in life was to change by the chance meeting of an escaped convict in the graveyard of his parents. Pip is petrified by the convict, Magwitch, who is able to manipulate ten year old Pip into stealing for him food from Mrs Joe stores and a file from Joe’s forge to set him free from his leg iron. The reader obtains insight of the dreadful convict and the harrowing predicament “Conscience is a dreadful thing when it accuses man or boy; but when, in the case of a boy, that secret burden co-operates with another secret burden…it is (as I can testify)a great punishment.”(GEpg20 )that Pip finds himself in.Relief comes when the convict is caught and confesses to stealing food from the Gargerys’ larder. Magwitch notices the fear on young Pip’s face he then confesses to the sergeant, “I took some wittles, up at the village over yonder….. a dram of liquor and a pie……” (GE, pg40). Magwitch shows a different side to the reader one of faithfulness and understanding. “God knows you are welcome to it – so far as it was ever mine………we don’t know what you have done, but we wouldn’t have you starved to death for it, poor miserable fellow-creatur. – would us Pip?” (GE, pg40) declared Joe. We see a compassionate and charitable man, a man not wishing to leave anyone in need. This event launches the beginning of a change in fortune for Pip, one that he romanticizes about often throughout the early telling of his story.

The change in Pip’s desires from being a humble and respected village blacksmith to a gentleman starts when he is introduced to Miss Haversham. Mrs. Joe’s uncle, Mr. Pumblechook, organizes for Pip to visit a Miss. Haversham. “She wants this boy to go and play there,” (GE, pg 51) says Mr. Pumblechook. It was here he meets with “an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion”, (GE, pg51) in Satis’ House where young Pip’s desires for money and a higher station in life is cultivated. The desire to improve himself, to read and write and attain any possible enhancement is owing to meeting a young lady being brought up my Miss Haversham named Estella. Pip’s expectations and desires for his life and the way he looks at of...
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