The revised ending of Great Expectations is the version that Bulwer-Lytton gave his advice on. It was after reading what Dickens had written in his original ending that Bulwer-Lytton made suggestions on how to improve the ending. In this ending, Pip and Estella meet again in the garden at Satis House, but the possibility of them being together, even married, is left open in contrast to the original.
By this point in the novel, Estella has suffered enormously, and is made into a better, more sympathetic person for it. Although this comes through in the original version, it is made even clearer in the second version. As Estella herself says, "I have been bent and broken, but--I hope--into a better shape" (439; ch. 59). This not only ties into the theme of blacksmithing in the novel, but also is different from the first ending because she is actually mentioning her change, as opposed to Pip remarking of it to the reader (Sadrin 176). Since Estella has suffered, the reader is meant to see that now she will be able to be with Pip. In a sense, she has suffered in order to be a worthy match for Pip. However, this goes against the "tone of pessimistic irony which pervades and helps to unify the novel" (Sucksmith 112). After everything that Pip has gone through, it seems quite a stretch that he and Estella can be happy together, or even have a possibility of being together after everything they have been through. Throughout the novel, Dickens has made it quite clear that Estella is above Pip, socially and financially. "She called me 'boy' so often, and with a carelessness that was far from complimentary" (70; ch. 8). By having Estella act snobbishly towards Pip, Dickens creates a huge gap ...
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...tence lead readers to believe that although Dickens, under the influence of Bulwer-Lytton, wanted them to be together, he could not decide on a definite way, so he left the last sentence vague. By doing so, Dickens left Pip and Estella's future in the hands of the readers, not his own, and took the responsibility of a definite ending off of his shoulders.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Janice Carlisle. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1996.
Millhauser, Milton. "Great Expectations: The Three Endings." Dickens Studies Annual 2 (1972): 267-276.
Rosenberg, Edgar. "Last Words on Great Expectations." Dickens Studies Annual 9 (1981): 87- 107.
Sadrin, Anny. "The Sense of Two Endings." Great Expectations. London: Unwin Hyman, 1988. 167-80.
Sucksmith, Harvey Peter. The Narrative Art of Charles Dickens. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1970.
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