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There were several themes associated with the novel Great Expectations. One of the most fascinating themes dealt with "infatuation and how it compares to and relates to love" ("Infatuation"). Infatuation is basically an obsession, or extravagant affection towards a person (Webster, 667). There is really no definite reason behind their passion, therefore this feeling is often short in duration and indicative of faulty judgement (Webster, 667). The person doesn't know what these feelings mean, this is normally why they mistake it for love. Love, on the other hand, is an intense affectionate concern for another person (Webster, 772). It is a more selfless and settled feeling. You can compare the difference between love and infatuation with the cliche "All that glitters is not gold", the glitter illusion being infatuation and the gold being love, the real thing. As a person grows and experiences their feelings with many other people, the distinction between love and infatuation becomes more clear. This is because the person can compare feelings they have experienced in the past, with their present feelings.
In Great Expectations we see how Pip's infatuation for Estella is "short in duration" (Webster, 667), as most infatuations are. Despite the fact that Estella is arrogant and rude, Pip is not only infatuated with her beauty and wealth, but also almost envies it. In fact the humiliation Estella puts Pip through, causes Pip to feel very lowly of himself and the way he has been brought up. This causes Pip's expectations to change from expecting to be Joe's blacksmith apprentice, to studying to become a gentlemen noticed and admired by Estella. As years pass, Estella
continues to play with Pip's heart, and Pip continues to unconditionally have feelings for her. Later, Estella marries a man named Bently Drummle, only causing Pip to, yet again, confess his love to Estella. Estella tells Pip "I know what you mean as form of words, but nothing more." (Dickens, 892) This basically means that Estella can hear what Pip is telling her, but she doesn't see how he could love her. Regardless of that, and the fact that Estella is to be married, Pip still continues to fantasize about Estella. Soon, Pip starts to learn more about her, and her past, through Miss Havisham. These talks with Pip helps make Miss Havisham into a kinder and happier person. Feeling that he cannot have Estella, and that the world around him has changed, Pip decides to propose to Biddy.
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Suffering all those years was a stronger effect than Miss Havisham's teachings. These experiences have given her the heart to understand what Pip's heart used to be. Though it is not really clear whether the two characters do eventually fall in love, in the end they both have found a state of happiness.
Another good example of a character's experience distinguishing love and infatuation is with Dickens' character, Biddy. Though Pip has always seen his relationship with Biddy as brother and sister like, Biddy has seen it in a whole different way. She has always had a tremendous crush on Pip, but she doesn't really know why she feels this way about him. Maybe it's because they grew up with one another, and spent time with one another, but she really has no definite answer. These factors allow this crush to apparently fall under the category of infatuation. Throughout most of Great Expectations she tries to pursue Pip, but he never falls for her. The reason being that he's not only not interested in Biddy, but also because he is continually trying to be the kind of gentlemen that will make Estella notice him. To add to that he leaves for London. These actions made by Pip eventually become factors that make Biddy realize that the "strong" feelings that Pip has for Estella will always be a part of his character. She will always hold a place in his heart. This also makes Biddy realize she really has no definite reason why she likes Pip so much. Meanwhile, with Pip gone, Biddy and Joe find that they have more time to spend with one another. Biddy teaches Joe to read and write. With their relationship at a
higher level, they realize they share many of the same values and morals. This causes the two characters to begin to become closer. Biddy's experiences with Pip and Joe has made her realize what love and happiness really is, and she finds those feelings in Joe.
In conclusion, love and infatuation have both their positive and negative effects. Infatuation may mislead you to believe that's you're in love. But most importantly it provides "experience for people to grow and learn about what kind of qualities they cherish and what kind of people they like to spend time with" ("Infatuation"). Infatuation also teaches us that it is truly what is in the inside that counts. In the long run, it is what is skin deep keeps that keeps old feelings seem so new. As both of the relationships analyzed above show, infatuation helps you realize that passion without reason is just a waste of time. So, why settle for all that glitters, when you can have gold?
Literature Gold. Prentice Hall. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1989.
"Infatuation" Great Expectations - Themes. Pag. 01
Webster's New World Dictionary. Simon & Schuster Inc. New York, New York, 1990.