Great Romantic Expectations

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 In Great Expectations Pip is devastated to find out that the convict he helped years ago on the marshes is the benefactor of his riches in life.  His distress is exemplified by the fact that he deserted his loyal friend Joe for the life that the convict Magwitch has given him.  His greatest grief, however, came from the fact that he believed he could never win the love of Estella, learning that she had married Bentley Drummel.  Pip remained in a depression over his situation until he discovered the truth of Estella’s parentage.  The strange coincidence of these findings cause Pip to change his attitude toward his further expectation and resume his belief that he still might have a chance with Estella.

            Clearly the story is well underway before any indication is made to the truth about Estella being an adopted child of Miss Havisham.  After this is established through the revelation of Herbert telling Pip this story, Pip gradually starts to pick up clues of his own from different sources.  He notices the similarities of Molly, Jagger’s housekeeper, and questions Wemmick about her resemblance to Estella.  Then Pip continues his pursuit by questioning Miss Havisham about Estella’s background.  Disclosures by Magwitch start to mesh the story together in Pip’s mind as he puts his entire finding together in a neat little package.  That package is the picture of the true parents of Estella.

            Most interesting as the clues unfold are the connections between Estella, Magwitch, and Miss Havisham to the lawyer Mr. Jaggers. For each one of them he has provided a service or has been in their employ.  In addition to their connection to Jaggers they were all connected to the convict Compeyson through his victimization of them each in a different way.  Pip sees all of these connections gradually through his pursuit of the facts.  Through his endeavors he is strangely affected by the true realization of the truth of Estella’s parents.

            Pip continues to question and observe the actions of those connected to his query to corroborate his guesses.  He does not truly understand his intent on proving the identity of Estella’s parents.  Just before Pip comes to the conclusion that Molly may be the mother of Estella his depression is spoken of by referral his mood to stop reading newspapers since he heard the news of Estella marrying Drummle.  Then Pip looks at Molly and decides that she is the woman who surely gave birth to Estella.

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            The realization of Magwitch being the father of Estella is a little longer in coming.  It is a fact that Pip may not have wanted to realize being his love for Estella might be tarnished by the fact that she was the daughter of a convict.  Pip always spoke of Magwitch as “his convict” so his love for Estella may have been fortified by the fact that she was the child of “his convict”.  This is a strange contradiction but may lend itself to some validity toward the strength of Pips feelings.

            Estella’s true parents add irony to her marriage to Drummle, but she is unaware of her background and her reasons for marrying Drummle are not spoken of in the novel.  Making any assumption as to why Estella married Drummle would be reading something into the novel that was not stated.  Estella is very truthful about her actions even to the extent of being hurtful, especially to Pip.  She openly tells him she has no heart.  The choice of Drummle for a husband may have been because she believed him not to have a heart either.  She may feel that marrying a man like Drummle would be the only true thing for her to do, since she could do him no harm.  She could possibly feel that marriage to Pip would be a destructive move on her part, since she would inevitably end up hurting him.  Speculations like these do not seem to come into Pip’s mind.  He doesn’t escape the effects of his discovery that Estella is Magwitch’s child.

            The story has two conclusions.  Both conclusions describe a coincidental meeting between Estella and Pip, when Pip returns to England.  In the first ending the meeting takes place in Piccadilly after two years have passed.  In the revised ending the meeting is much more remarkable, occurring on the very evening of Pip’s homecoming to visit Biddy, Joe, and their children.  The most bizarre fact is that it occurs on the location where Satis House once stood.  Both the location and the timing make the second ending more nostalgic and significant to the scheme of Pip’s future expectations.  In the revised ending Pip stresses the extraordinary nature of the meeting, first perceiving “a solitary figure”, “the figure of a woman” that, on seeing him, falters “as if much surprised”; on hearing his name “uttered,” he recognizes Estella and remarks, “After so many years, it is strange that we should thus meet again, Estella, here where our first meeting was!”  Both Pip and Estella have lost their fortunes but each has been improved by adversity.  Pip knows that Estella is no longer married, as the news has come to him that Drummle has died, as the result of  an accident.  He also knows that Drummle was abusive to Estella from stories he has heard from various sources.  When Pip sees Estella he thinks of his last words to Magwitch, a farewell expressing love for the convict’s daughter.  Estella discloses that she too has thought of Pip and then makes an admission that she regrets what she had thrown away and was ignorant of the worth of her wealth.  Pip must surely recall the words that Estella spoke to him so many years ago when she told him that she had no heart.  Now she seemed to be saying to him that she had found that she did have a heart after all.

            Pip has carried romantic delusions with him throughout his life, of what it would be like to be the husband of Estella.  The odds against such a union are obscure and fairly terrifying.  Especially considering the effect that Miss Havisham and her bitter existence had on Estella.  Though Estella fought them with her own brand of truthfulness, she had to have lived in a confused state of what love must really be like.   Her cruelty that she identified as her version of the truth caused her to choose unwisely, as did Miss Havisham.  She surely must have known that her incorrect choice in Drummle as a mate was following the path of destruction that Miss Havisham had painted for her. 

            The discovery of Estella’s true parents seems to elevate Pip from his despair, reawaken his hope and create in him more expectations.  After recognizing Estella’s relationship to Magwitch, Pip gains his confidence and believes once more in a life of miracles.  He is again free to persist in his desires and to interpret subsequent events such as his escape from Orlick, the removal of Biddy as a potential mate, and the meeting with Estella as confirmation of his great expectations, even though they have gone through many modifications on their way to the end of the story.

Works Cited:

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Janice Carlisle. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1996.


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