Fairy tale conventions and Great Expectations

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Fairy tale conventions and Great Expectations

Great Expectations and Fairy tales

Tolkien describes the facets which are necessary in a

good fairy tales as fantasy, recovery, escape, and

consolation - recovery from deep despair, escape from

some great danger, but most of all, consolation. Speak-

ing of the happy ending,…all complete fairy stories must

have it…However fantastic or terrible the adventure, it

can give to child or man that hears it,…a catch of breath,

a beat and lifting of the heart near to tears.

Great Expectations shares many of the conventions of fairy tales. The one dimensional characters, the use of repetition, and the evil women seem to make the similarities strikingly strong. However, are they strong enough to conclude that it is indeed a fairy tale? It can not be ignored that it also falls short on some important areas, such as the traditional fairy tale ending. Is there enough evidence to classify it either way?

Fairy tales have characters of complete good or complete evil. There are no characters who posses both of these qualities. In reading Great Expectations it is plain to see that there is indeed total goodness and total evil. This can be seen in many of the characters. There is no goodness to be found in Orlick. He plays the role of the bully. His hot temper results in the near death of Mrs. Joe and in the near death of Pip. Compeyson is another who has no goodness to be found in him. He is full of evil and hate. It was said that "He had no more heart than a iron file, he was cold as death and he had the head of the devil". He broke the heart of poor Miss Havisham so he could have her money. He also longed to kill his enemy, Magwitch, and ends up reporting him to the officials to get him put to death. Nowhere in this tale do either of these men show one ounce of compassion or goodness. They can both be regarded as the enemies and the "Bad guys" of the story.

Joe is a character who shows complete goodness. He is kind hearted and gentle. His generosity and forgiveness is demonstrated countless times in the story. When the escaped convict speaks about the food he stole from Joe and asks his forgiveness, Joe's response is not one of anger.
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