The Prodigal Son in Great Expectations Essay

The Prodigal Son in Great Expectations Essay

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is an elaborate retelling of the Biblical parable of the prodigal son (Ryken 157). It follows the life of Pip as he rises through and falls from society. He begins his life as an orphaned boy in a blacksmith’s home to become a young gentleman of “great expectations”. Pip forsakes the love and care of his guardian, Joe Gargery, for advancement in society. Misfortunes befall him; he loses all his wealth and he is forced to return to his home. Pip is the prodigal son who ungratefully leaves his home and squanders all his wealth. Joe Gargery is the loving father who patiently forbears and lovingly welcomes his boy back. Pip’s redemption is revealed in the novel. Great Expectations is a bildungsroman; it is a novel which shows the education of Pip. Pip learns about the corruptness of society and the shallowness of social class. In true Victorian fashion, Dickens’ novel is a form of social criticism; it attacks the conceited notions of society.
The allusion to the parable prodigal son is hinted at early in the novel. Mr. Pumblechook and Mr. Wopsle constantly admonish Pip to be “‘grateful…to them which brought [him] up by hand’” (Dickens 54). Mr. Wopsle declares that “‘swine were the companions of the prodigal’” and an ungrateful child is worse than swine (Dickens 26). Mrs. Joe often reproaches Pip for being ungrateful. She resents having to raise Pip up since his infancy. However, Mrs. Joe abuses Pip (Ryken 156). She whips him for unnecessary reasons and is annoyed by any question he asks. The person to whom Pip owes his gratitude to is Joe. Joe had “sanctified” his home, making it a “pleasant place” (Dickens 112).
Like the father in the parable, Joe loves Pip wholeheartedly and unconditionally....

... middle of paper ...

...oe, his two fathers who devoted their lives for his happiness. Pip’s journey home demonstrates that he has learned the important lesson of gratitude. Like other literature of the Victorian Age, Great Expectations is a novel which provides entertainment, social criticism, and moral lessons.

Primary Source
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Bantam, 1986. Print.
Secondary Sources
The Bible: Authorized King James Version with Apocrypha. New York: Oxford UP, 1997.
Kappel, Lawrence, ed. Readings on Great Expectations. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1999. Print.
Ryken, Leland. Realms of Gold: The Classics in Christian Perspective. Wheaton, IL: H. Shaw, 1991. Print.
"Redemption and Love". Brooklyn College: Department of English. 11 May 2002. Web. 10 Dec. 2010..

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