Great Expectations


Story Symbols and Themes


Themes are the central topics of the work.


For most of the novel, Pip struggles to move past his poor, humble upbringing. As he fights to win the love of Estella, Pip often casts aside the loyalty and love of others. When Magwitch appears in his room, Pip finally begins to see that perhaps he should not focus on money and social mobility to win Estella’s favor and become a “gentleman.” Becoming a gentleman, Pip learns, has less to do with money and social mobility and more to do with the manner in which he treats others. Despite Joe’s poor speech and dislike of the city, Pip eventually sees the love and friendship that Joe has given him. Even though Compeyson has had an education, he still becomes a criminal. Furthermore, although Magwitch has been labeled a criminal, Pip sees that there is good in him.

Social Class

From the start of the novel, social class plays an important role in Great Expectations. Pip desires to move into a higher social class so that he can “become a gentleman” and win the affection of Estella. When Jaggers appears at his home, Pip believes that this is his chance to go from a poor orphan to a successful, rich gentleman. However, Pip’s dreams and expectations become continually shattered from that moment on. Instead of becoming his benefactor and preparing him to marry Estella, Miss Havisham simply uses him as a practice suitor for Estella. She encourages Estella to treat him badly and delights in his misery. Once he is granted a benefactor, Pip squanders most of the money and is left with nothing. Instead of gaining upward mobility into a new social class, Pip struggles to understand himself among the rich and “important” people of London. Although Dickens is not necessarily saying that it can’t be done, he shows through Pip that the movement between social classes is often a lost cause. It is better to find happiness within yourself than to try to be someone you...

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Essays About Great Expectations