Great Expectations and Jane Eyre: Comparing and Contrasting Two Bildungsromans”

Great Expectations and Jane Eyre: Comparing and Contrasting Two Bildungsromans”

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“Great Expectations and Jane Eyre: Comparing and Contrasting Two Bildungsromans”

Charles Dickens (the author of Great Expectations) and Charlotte Brontë (the author of Jane Eyre) both grew up during the early 1800s. Growing up during the same time period, each author incorporated elements of the Victorian Society into these novels. Both novels depict the protagonist’s search for the meaning of life and the nature of the world within the context of a defined social order. In essence, the two novels encompass the all-around self-development of the main characters, by employing similar techniques. Each spurs the protagonist on their journey by introducing some form of loss or discontent which then results in the main character departing their home or family setting. In both Great Expectations and Jane Eyre the process of maturity is long, arduous, and gradual, consisting of repeated clashes between the protagonist's needs and desires and the views and judgments enforced by an unbending social order. Eventually, towards the end of each novel, the spirit and values of the social order become manifest in both of the main characters Pip and Jane Eyre, who are then included in society. Although the novels end differently, both contain an assessment by the protagonists of their new place in that society. Great Expectations and Jane Eyre, despite exhibiting considerable differences in setting, gender roles, and education, nonetheless convey the same overall purpose – that of the portrayal of the journey from ignorance to knowledge in Victorian Society, starting from childhood to adulthood, enhanced through the use of the protagonists Pip and Jane Eyre.
Firstly, the title of Charles Dickens’ work, Great Expectations, directly suggests the idea of a process of anticipation, maturation, and self-discovery through experience as Pip moves from childhood to adulthood. Charles Dickens begins the development of his character Pip as an innocent, unsophisticated orphan boy. Looking at his parent’s tombstone, Pip draws the conclusion: “the shape of the letters on my father’s gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair” (1). Here, Pip is in a sense self-taught. He does not have much communication with his sister Mrs. Joe Gargery (who adopted him) about the background and history of his parents; in fact, they do not talk much at all about any...


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...f Jane. Like in Great Expectations, Jane is satisfied and happy – indicating the completion of her development.
Though exhibiting considerable differences in setting, gender roles, and education, the two novels still nonetheless convey the same overall purpose – that of the portrayal of the journey from ignorance to knowledge in Victorian Society, starting from childhood to adulthood, enhanced through the use of the protagonists Pip and Jane Eyre. Both characters started out in very similar situations. Both Pip and Jane Eyre were orphans very early on in their childhood. Although both characters had varying journeys to adulthood, they were both spurred on by some type of discontent. In Pip’s case it was love and money, and in Jane’s case, she was simply trying to survive and find true love. In both stories, the development was long and gradual (Pip’s journey to London and Jane’s journey to the Lowood School and several houses thereafter). However, in the end both characters achieve a state in which they are both included in society and content with their accomplishments. In both stories, the characters experience a 360 degree change and apply everything they learn along the way.

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