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Great Expectations: Use of Irony
Many professors, analysts, and common readers believe that Great Expectations was possibly the best work of Charles Dickens. Perhaps it was because of the diverse themes displayed by Dickens, which modulate as the story progresses. A clear example of the measures taken by the author to create diversity, is the application of irony. Dickens uses Rony to create suspense and conflict in plot events related to Estella, Miss Havisham, the convict, Joe, and Mrs. Joe.
The relationship between Pip and Estella is very complex and ironic. It keeps the reader entertained, with the humor of sophisticated children. A major irony, of situation, occurs when Estella kisses Pip after insulting and degrading him. The reader becomes confused with Estella's actions and feels sympathy for Pip. The confusion causes conflict, which keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. On page 104 Estella says, "Come here! You may kiss me, if you like." This is something unexpected, which livens up the story.
Dickens portrays Miss Havisham in a very unique way. There is a dramatic irony between Miss Havisham and Pip. It is ironic how she wanted to watch him become miserable, just because he is of the male gender, and ironically she grew to like him. She even paid for part of Pip's expenses for the partnership. Yet what is more ironic is that Miss Havisham does not praise herself for the good deed. In the beginning of the novel, Miss Havisham displayed a harsh, cold attitude toward Pip. This is displayed in her deceptive act on page 69, where she says, "Well, you can break his heart?" As the novel ends Miss Havisham's attitude completely changes. She realizes the pain she has caused Pip and apologizes to him. Because of her positive change, she becomes more likeable to the audience.
A third person to have an odd effect on Pip is the convict. One of the greatest examples of irony is brought out, in the sudden confrontation between Pip and the convict. On page 12, the convict speaks to Pip, " Get me a file." Pip listens to the convict and brings him food and a file. It is ironic how a simple task such as this, changed Pip's life forever. Pip obeyed the man, and later in life the man repaid him. It is ironic how the convict takes from Pip, then later gives back.
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Joe is a little twist in the novel. It is ironic in that he is Pip's father figure, yet Pip and Joe act more like friends or brothers. On page 14 Pip says, "I suppose Joe Gargery and I were both brought up ‘by hand’." It seems Pip is talking about a child and not a grown adult. This is a humorous irony that keeps the audience entertained, because it is unusual.
Finally, there is the relationship between Mrs. Joe and Pip that consists of verbal irony. Pip says, "My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I, had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbors because she brought me up ‘by hand’" (p.14). This is ironic because Pip interprets it as if being brought up by hand meant that he was punished and disciplined with beatings. Mrs. Joe however, meant that she alone had to bring him up with no help. They both have totally opposite ideas of what the same thing means.
The many different ironies Dickens used to create suspense and conflict between Pip and the others gave the novel flavor. It keeps it interesting and keeps the reader awake. There are many lessons learned through Dickens's use of irony. An example is the irony between Abel Magwitch and Pip, which teaches those good things, may come from bad, or that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Also, this strategy gives the reader a chance to think or interpret it for himself/herself. This is what makes the book great.