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Themes of Love, Redemption and Isolation in Great Expectations

 

       Of the major themes from Charles Dickens novel "Great Expectations" to be

discussed as to their importance concerning its structure, I have selected

"Love" in the context of human relationships, "Isolation" and finally

"Redemption". The loneliness isolation brings can only be redeemed by the loving

associate of our fellow man, this is a two way thing.

       "Had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the

appointed order of their maker."

 

       In isolation the greatest sin we commit against ourselves and others, is

to shun human companionship as Miss Haversham did. After her betrayal in love

she hardened her heart towards her fellow man. By hardening her heart and

suppressing her naturally affectionate nature, she committed a crime against

herself. Miss Havershams  love for Compeyson is of a compassionate kind, this

blinded her to his true nature, as Herbert remarked, "too haughty and too much

in love to be advised by anyone." At Compeysons desertion her anger and sorrow

became extreme and she threw herself and Satis House into perpetual mourning and

a monument to her broken heart, shutting the world out and herself from the

world. Her only concession is in her adoption of Estella.

 

       Miss Haversham has ulterior motives in adopting Estella, this is not a

loving action on her part, but a calculated manoeuvre to turn the child into a

haughty, heartless instrument of revenge against men. Estella is encouraged to

practice her disdain on Pip and to break his heart. Paradoxically, Miss

Havershams greatest sin, is against herself. By hardening her heart she loses

her generous, affectionate nature and becomes withered inside emotionally. Her

punishment is that the heartless young woman she has made, uses her lack of

feelings against Miss Haversham.

 

       Estella herself is isolated, as for most of the novel she takes pleasure

in her role of avenger. Her isolation is in part responsible for Pips snobbery

and his estrangement from Joe and Biddy. Like Miss Haversham she becomes a

victim of her own machinations. She enters into a loveless marriage to Drummle,

who is cruel to her. This shows that no matter how heartless one tries to be,

there is always someone more heartless. The instrument of revenge punishes the

avenger and is punished in return.

 

       Pip feels emotionally and geographically isolated on his arrival in

London. Jaggers isolation is his deliberate rejection to human involvement, he

substitutes these with the mechanical process of law. Jaggers uses the legal

system to avoid personal responsibility for the fate of his fellow man. This

profession has imprisoned his better instincts, leaving him isolated within the

system. Magwitch, however, is isolated by the system, he uses Pip as his agent

of revenge. Magwitchs' motives are not only revenge, but also gratitude for the

food Pip gave him in his hour of need. He develops a fatherly affection towards

Pip, who in the end returns his affection. It is Magwitch who has the best

reasons for disbelieving in human companionship, that supported it the most.

 

       Love in the context of human relationships is best shown through Pip. The

relationship between Pip and Joe changed as Pip grew up. As a child, Pip

regarded Joe as an equal, though he loved him, "I had a new sensation of feeling

conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart."

 

       Though there is love, the snobbish Pip is critical of Joe, not verbally,

but in his thoughts. When Pip attains his "Great Expectations," he is

embarrassed by what he regards as Joe's commonness and avoids his company.

 

       Pip's conscience makes him realise, Joe has more gentlemanly qualities

than he himself possesses, his remorse however is short lived. When Pip's

fortunes take a fall he is too ashamed to approach Joe and Biddy, their love is

too strong however and are there for Pip in his hour of need.

 

       In Pip's relationship with Biddy, he is very condescending, and shows

disregard for her feelings, " If I could only get myself to fall in love with

you," is a prime example. Pip compares Biddy to Estella and overlooks her

obviously good qualities. After his loss of fortune, Pip decides to honour Biddy

by marrying her. "I would go to Biddy." Pip still snobbishly thought Biddy would

be glad to marry him. However, Biddy has married Joe. Though she was once half

in love with Pip, Biddy recognised his obsession for Estella and wisely sought a

partner elsewhere. Biddy and Joe share the same values and are ideal partners.

 

       Herbert and Clara, Mr Wemmick and Miss Skiffin and Mr and Mrs Pocket have

loving steady relationships.

 

       Pip's sexual attraction towards Estella is more romantic ideology than

genuine love. He envisions Estella as a captive princess and himself as the

heroic knight, only he can awaken love in her heart. Even though Estella tells

him, "I have no heart", he does not believe her.

 

       Does Estella believe what she says or is she trying to convince herself?

Is she using her unattainability to perversely keep Pip's interest?

 

       Redemption is attained by Miss Haversham when she humbles herself to ask

Pip's forgiveness. After the cruelty she has endured at the hands of Compeyson,

Estella emerges a more compassionate person. Pip's forgiveness and love from Joe,

Biddy and Magwitch. He endures hardship and triumphantly emerges a mature,

thoughtful person.

 

       The themes of Love, Isolation and Redemption are the structure the other

themes hang from. The loneliness of isolation is the beginning; love is the food

that staves it off and redemption is the final cleansing. Love is the backbone

of the novel, the thing that binds the others together, redemption is its

conclusion. There has to be love or the characters would not be able to interact,

if there were only isolation each character's tale would be a separate piece of

work. All good novels have a moral to relate and involve love and redemption.

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