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The Two Endings of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

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The Two Endings of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

No novel is complete without a good ending. Although the introductory and middle portions are important as well, the conclusion is what the reader tends to remember most. When Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations, he crafted a work that is truly excellent the whole way through. From the moment Pip is introduced until he and Estella walk out of the garden in the final chapter, this book exhibits an uncanny ability to keep the reader wanting more. There is, however, some debate regarding the final portion of the novel. The ending that Dickens originally wrote for Great Expectations is noticeably different than the one that was subsequently published. It seems that he decided to change the final part of the novel at the request of Edward Bulwer Lytton, a close friend and fellow author. Dickens’ decision to alter the conclusion of the story has led to a debate that continues to this day. The beauty of this argument lies in the fact that each person who reads this novel is free to form his own opinion on whether Dickens was mistaken in his decision to modify the ending.

Many readers, however, are not aware of the fact that the conclusion they are reading is not the original version. In the initial drafts of Great Expectations, Pip discovers that Estella’s first husband, Drummle, has died, and that she has subsequently remarried. Estella’s new husband is a doctor from Shropshire—a man who had once stepped in and put a stop to Drummle’s abuse of his wife. After returning to London, Pip encounters Estella while walking through town with Joe and Biddy’s young son (affectionately known as “little Pip”). The two, who are now in their thirti...

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...e regarding the conclusion of Great Expectations rages on. One could make a strong case for either version of the ending, as there is no final answer regarding the matter of which is better. My personal preference lies with the original version for the simple fact that it seems to fit the overall tone and nature of the novel a bit better than the revised ending. Mr. Dickens, however, apparently thought otherwise and therefore decided to publish the second version. Since he is the creator of this great work, I believe it best to yield to his discretion on the matter. It is my belief that the reader should trust in Dickens’ judgment regarding which ending fits best within the confines of this novel. Although each reader is undoubtedly entitled to his own opinion, I firmly believe that the opinion of the author should serve as the last word in matters such as this.
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