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Alienation In Great Expectations Essay


In the novel Great Expectations, Charles Dickens makes many of the main characters suffer by alienation, with each character suffering differently. Pip, the protagonist, seeks to marry Estella, the fair but cruel daughter of Mrs. Havisham, a crazy old lady who had locked herself in a room for twenty years. Pip, feeling that he is of a lower class than Estella, jumps at the opportunity to become a gentleman, and becomes so devoted to becoming a gentleman that although those that he wishes to fit in with look down upon him, he disowns the lowly people who truly want to accept him. Estella has been brought up Mrs. Havisham to bring about the doom of all mankind, and she does so by breaking every mans heart she can get her hands on. However, in doing this she has lost all emotion, and is alienated from other people by her inability to relate to other people. Havisham, who had been showed up on her wedding day, desires to destroy all mankind, but locks herself in a room for twenty years and does not talk to anyone save Estella. In all three examples, the characters are alienated by their desires and their goals.

Pip, a sadly ignorant child, was brought up by hand by his sister Mrs. Gargery. He illustrates his harsh childhood by saying that Having at that time to find out for myself what the expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand. (5) Even as a child, because of this harsh upbringing and his somewhat secluded home, he is not able to grow up with the other children and thus, is different from them. He has never played with another child before, and illustrates that when he says to Miss Havisham If you complain of me I shall get into trouble with mysister, so I would do it if I could; but it's so new here, and sostrange, and so fine,--and melancholy--. (51) By saying this, he also shows that he has been locked away from new experiences and such and that he is not comfortable around other people, which is understandable in this case as he is with a wizened old woman who has not seen daylight in recent memory.

As Pip grows older, he becomes obsessed with being with Estella. He is ashamed at being nothing more than a blacksmiths apprentice, and he does not try to hide it. As Brooks says in his review of Pips character, he does rather dislike it, and poor Joe is unable to comprehend it. Having known nothing more than the forge his entire life, he is bewildered by Pips discontent. However, he gets new hope when he learns that he has an anonymous benefactor, and that he is to be sent to London to become a gentleman. Lawrence Hannah finds this too coincidental, and says Dickens occasionally twists the plot rather strangely, and to many most of these twists mesh much too perfectly with the story.

In London, he tries fervently to become a gentleman and win Estellas hand in marriage. However, he tries much too hard to fit in. Completely forgetting his childhood, he treats Joe as a child and yells at him because Joe was trying too hard to be civilized, and ultimately embarrasses himself, and in Pips mind, Pip. This is a clear example of Pip going too far in trying to be a gentleman, because he is so narrow-minded and afraid that Joe would embarrass him that he lashes out at everything Joe does instead of patiently teaching Joe how to do things correctly. What is most ironic is that he was kindly taught and chastised by Herbert, which is what he should have done to Joe. His alienation is also clear when he goes back to visit Biddy and Joe. While talking with Biddy, Biddy talks to him about his change in attitude, and desperately tries to show Pip the right path. Pip completely forgets that Biddy, although not rich, has a better understanding of being in a higher class, having taught Pip much of what he knows, and completely ignores her. He pretends to listen to her, and by doing this shows that he has just enough respect for her not to completely blow her off.

Estella, the object of Pips affection, was adopted by Havisham as a young child. Havisham, who had been showed up on her wedding day, wanted to seek her revenge on the male race with Estella, who is exceptionally beautiful but is cruel and cold-hearted, a product of Havishams upbringing. Price, in his foreword, says that Estella is among the most sad and twisted characters that Dickens has ever wrought. Eigner says of Estella: Estella, the classical cold-hearted and beautiful woman, has no one that can be considered friendly, but she needs no one when she is the object of desire for so many. As a young girl, Havisham brings in Pip as practice for Estella. Havishams idea works perfectly, and Pip falls head over heels for Estella, and although he is crushed repeatedly by Estellas cold-heartedness, he never gives up, which pleases Havisham to no end. However, because she has spent every minute of her life under Havishams tutoring, she has been unable to live a normal life. She has grown up without friends or positive role models, and because she only has Havisham as company, she has grown twisted and maligned from the standard girlhood, which is clearly demonstrated when she says With this boy? Why, he is a common laboring boy! (43), to which Havisham replies I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer,--only it seemed so unlikely,--Well? You can break his heart. (43). Without a normal, happy childhood, she is alienated emotionally for the rest of the story.

During the second stage of Pips expectations, Estella has grown to a beautiful, charming young woman who is chased after by what seems half of Londons male population, she takes great joy in breaking their hearts. Although she is being chased by all these men, she is still alone inside, and she wants to be alone. Her heart has defrosted a bit though, and she does not enjoy tormenting Pip as much as she did when she was younger. She even finds enough heart to tell him to stay away from her, as she is nothing but trouble.

Estella marries Bentley Drummle, and as Jerome Meckier says about their marriage, suddenunexpectedand ultimately ends up in disaster. Some critics speculate that somehow, Estella had found out about Pips dislike for Drummle, and Estella may have decided to combine her love for breaking hearts and to help Pip out. Whatever the reason, the marriage is not a happy one. Drummle beats Estella, and she does not go get help. Because she is being beat, and because there are marks, rumors fly, and if she had ever decided to completely turn her life around, she would be shunned by all the other ladies because no matter what, rumors about her would make it harder for her to be able to be accepted.

Havisham, a lonely and tortured soul, has been plotting to bring the downfall of the male sex her entire life. However, she is a wizened old lady who would find it impossible to seek her revenge in the way she wants, so she adopts Estella and raises her to be a cruel lady. One reason that she is so bitter is that she has told no one about her being showed up on her wedding day by her fianc Compeyson and her brother Arthur, leaving her to keep her hatred to stew in her for twenty years, which Elliot Gilbert calls unhealthy and unsavory.. She locks herself in a room with no light, and does not bother to clean up the rotting wedding feast, and pays no attention to the vermin that gnaw at her dress that she has not changed in twenty years. In her efforts to rid the earth of men, she uses Pip as target practice for Estella, causing an innocent, young boy to be crushed hopelessly by Estella, and hurting Estella by replacing her heart with a block of ice. When Pip first comes to Satis House, Havisham is only able to convince Estella to play with Pip when she tells him that You can break his heart. (43). However, she is unable to control the monster that she created, and goes insane when Estella, not knowing where to draw the line, breaks Havishams heart when Havisham, pleading for love from her machine, tells Estella that O, look at her, look at her! cried Miss Havisham, bitterly; Look at her so hard and thankless, on the hearth where she was reared! Where I took her into this wretched breast when it was first bleeding from its stabs, and where I have lavished years of tenderness upon her! (239). From that quote, Havisham is truly alone now, without even her heartless machine at her side anymore. She eventually tries to commit suicide, but ultimately fails when Pip rescues her. However, she matures enough to see that not all men are evil, and dies knowing that her quest has come to an end, before it even began.

In Dickens novel Great Expectations, the three main characters are alienated by various desires. Pip wants to become a gentleman, but ends up losing all his friends and family. Estella wants to become the object of desire and disappointment in men, but she ends up being washed up, used up, and cast away. Havisham wants to destroy all mankind by raising Estella to do so, but she ends up locked in a room of her own free will and does the exact opposite of what she had planned to do; care for a man. Because of their desires, all three characters have fallen short of their expectations and have been left alone in the world.

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