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Greate Essay, Research Paper

Great Expectations: Wealth as an Agent of Isolation

In Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations, Dickens conveys the idea that wealth leads to isolation. The novel begins when Pip, a young orphan, encounters an escaped convict in a cemetery. Despite Pip s efforts to help this terrifying personage, the convict is still captured and transported to Australia. Pip is then introduced into the wealthy yet decaying home of Miss Havisham where he meets Estella, a little girl who takes pleasure in tormenting Pip about his rough hands and future as a blacksmith. As Pip continues to visit Miss Havisham s house, he becomes more and more dissatisfied with his guardian, Joe, a hard working blacksmith, and his childhood friend Biddy. Several years later, when Pip becomes the heir of an unknown benefactor and the recipient of great expectations, he leaves everything behind to go to London and become a gentleman. Pip spends many years in search of his benefactor s identity and is later disappointed to find his benefactor to be the same convict whom Pip had helped in the marshes many years ago. Pip also discovers that having expectations is not what he thought it would be, and only through the loss of his unlikely fortune does he regain the love and innocence that he once possessed in his childhood years at the forge. Charles Dickens explores the idea that wealth is the agent of isolation through the novel s characterization, through its setting, and through its underlying themes.

The characterization in Great Expectations suggests that money causes people unconsciously to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Pip, upon spending time with Miss Havisham and Estella, becomes discontented with his apprenticeship and coarse upbringing at the forge and wishes that Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too (Dickens 74). Pip becomes ungrateful to those who brought him up by hand and longs desperately for the magnificent romance of Satis House. Without realizing it, Pip grows further and further away from the genuine reality of his life at the forge.

Later, when Pip is endowed with his unexpected fortune, he becomes selfish, greedy, and makes excuses for himself not to keep in touch with Joe and Biddy. As he goes through the process of making out his bills, he illustrates his ability to fool himself and to turn his face away from reality towards what is empty and false. There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did (336). Pip is successfully dishonest with himself and spends his days in a lonely pattern of spending money and tallying up his debts.

Besides being greedy and dishonest, Pip is blindingly proud of his prosperity. At his sister s funeral, Pip does not censure his own pride and vanity while he censures these qualities in Pumblechook and the Hubbles. My thoughts were further distracted by the excessive pride of Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, who were surpassingly conceited and vainglorious in being members of so distinguished a procession (344). At the same time, Pip s pride and confidence in the power of his money is clearly present as he offers Biddy some of his wealth, which she quickly declines. Pip is deceiving himself and ignoring the foolishness and loneliness into which prosperity and pride have led him.

Miss Havisham is also proud and selfish, but more than that, she is bitter, which causes her great loneliness in her decaying mansion. Miss Havisham is a wealthy, half-mad woman who was jilted on her wedding day many years before and has never recovered. Miss Havisham s fianc had used her for her money, and when he had enough, left her at the height of their relationship. Miss Havisham locks herself in her dark decrepit house and does not let anyone in her life besides her beloved Estella.

Miss Havisham also uses her wealth to manipulate not only her relatives, but even Pip although she uses Pip for an entirely different reason. Miss Havisham uses Pip because she is vengeful and wants others to feel the same pain that had been inflicted upon her so many years before. For this same reason, Miss Havisham breeds Estella to be callous towards all emotions of love. She has taught Estella to play with men s minds and has trained her so that men would gravitate towards her like insects to candle light (572). In this case, Miss Havisham s wealth has not only inflicted pain and loneliness upon herself, but also upon Pip and Estella as well.

Dickens uses Joe s character to contrast the main current of action and false values. In himself, and his very presence, Joe seems to chase away the feelings of emptiness and gloom. Immediately, he rejects the principles of the importance of property, proper speech and manners. From the very beginning, Joe has the wisdom that Pip suffers to obtain, and Joe is able to live in domestic tranquility and to experience the love and company of others. Joe is naturally forgiving, generous, and virtuous. All these qualities will enable him to love and be loved by others. He is a gentle Christian man who has never experienced monetary wealth, but who all his life experiences the wealth of honest companionship of others, and Whatsume er the failings on his part, remember reader he were that good in his heart (154).

Dickens use of setting in the novel illustrates that money is the root of isolation. Pip s visit to Walworth and Wemmick s double life points out how Pip has divided his own life between the hardness of London and Joe s warm cottage. Wemmick, when in his home at Walworth, acts like a tender and loving man who enjoys the company of the Aged and Miss Skiffins. However, once Wemmick returns to the busy and moneymaking office of Mr. Jaggers, he turns into the same boring and callous man whom Pip had met upon his first arrival in London. A similar relationship exists between Pip s hardened life in London and his previous comfortable residence at the forge. Unfortunately, and unlike Wemmick, Pip has chosen to favor the London facade rather than the honest rural life with its more real and less isolated delights.

At the forge, there is always a place for Pip; no matter how many times Pip has neglected the genuine love of Joe and Biddy. Whenever Pip goes back to the forge, there is a luminous aura about it that Pip longs for, but from which he stays away because his true feelings are tainted by his desire for wealth and Estella. Pip remembers how Estella treated him when he had the black hardened hands of a blacksmith, and although he longs for the love and warm comfort which he once felt at the forge, he does not dare return because of how he will seem to Estella. However, Estella cannot feel love or hate or provide warm comfort, so Pip is once again left alone upon deceiving himself about his true path and identity.

Miss Havisham s house is a dark and gloomy place, overgrown with cobwebs and untouched by time. Miss Havisham lives alone with the exception of a few obsequious guests and visitors, because everyone is driven away by her awkward personality and mysterious up keeping of the house. Her wealth is the root of her loneliness, which all began on the day when her fianc left her. Even Estella, who owes everything to Miss Havisham, does not love her because Miss Havisham has trained Estella to be insensitive to all forms of affection. Therefore, Miss Havisham s wealth has driven all the life away from her house.

The underlying themes in the novel indicate that wealth is the cause of loneliness. Dickens suggests that pride leads to isolation, as in the case of Estella and Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham s injured pride which most definitely stems from her wealth has been the cause of Estella s peculiar upbringing. It is clear to see that Estella has been raised as an invincible weapon, because she is free of the pains of loving. Estella s pride is so deeply ingrained into her nature that she cannot love not even Miss Havisham. Therefore, both Miss Havisham and Estella are forced to lead lonely lives insensitive even to each other s feelings.

Dickens also develops the theme that the power of money corrupts innocence. Pip s first encounter with the power of money is at Miss Havisham s house, where he first begins to gain a growing awareness of himself. Pip s shame of his own lack of genteel breeding and his new self-consciousness are his first steps in his loss of innocence he had previously shared with Joe. Later, when Pip is confronted with his new expectations, he leaves the pastoral setting of his youth, clearly emerging from his innocence. Pip loses his sense of guilt and gratitude that were once part of his innocence and is now reluctant to face the love of Joe and Biddy. Instead, his mind is engulfed by his thoughts about his future, and he relishes the power of money over his old life among the common townspeople.

I walked away at a good pace, thinking it was easier to go than I had supposed it would be, and reflecting I whistled and made nothing of going the village was very peaceful and quiet, and the light mists were solemnly rising, as if to show me the world, and I had been so innocent and little there, and all beyond was so unknown and great . (196)

This loss of innocence begins the torment of isolation, which Pip feels until he no longer has any money and returns to the simplicity of his native village.

Another important underlying theme developed by Dickens is that appearances deceive the adolescent mind. Pip believes his newly acquired fortune can help him become a gentleman and win over Estella s love, when in fact, Estella merely plays on Pip s desires and uses him to tease the other ugly moths that gravitate towards her light. When Pip finally realizes that he is merely Estella s pawn, he is left as unhappy as Miss Havisham could have intended. I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, sorry God knows what its name was (478). Pip s desires for property and gentility, which he has learned from Estella, fade and are replaced once again by the virtues for which Joe had always stood. It is only now, when Pip is free from false deceptions of his adolescent mind, that he begins to realize the true intentions of Provis, his generous benefactor. Pip s former repugnance toward the convict fades away, and he begins to see Provis as an affectionate, grateful, and generous person, much like Joe has seen Pip all this time. Pip s aspiration for gentility comes full circle, and he is now able to feel the love that he had once experienced at the forge.

Through the use of characterization, setting, and underlying themes, Dickens is able to convey that monetary wealth is the agent of isolation. In his cautionary tale of a young man raised above his station by a mysterious benefactor, Dickens warns his reader to reconsider the origin of isolation and of true wealth. Pip s great expectations cause him great pain before he finally comes to the realization that true wealth is that of human virtue, generosity, dignity, and compassion. Only after suffering and loneliness have softened Pip and Estella s hearts to possess these traits, can they be together in innocent union and consummate harmony

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