Great Expectations

Soiled Conscience in "Great Expectations" College

In Great Expectations, the word “taint” describes Pip's soiled conscience and shame for his identity, which he confuses with low class status and physical filth (Dickens 249). Pip's usage of it in the passage about his feeling of 'taint' shows the way he conflates its multiple meanings. He acquires this stain on his morals and self-worth at the marshes when he gives Magwitch the file, and he first becomes consciously ashamed of this lowness when Estella insults him for his clothing and skin. The next decade of Pip's life sees him attempting to bury this contamination underneath fancy frocks and elitism so he can physically remove the feeling of taint and win Estella. However, Pip's coming of age occurs when he realizes the futility of substituting superficial scouring for the inner cleansing he finds by the novel's conclusion.

Pip's experience with the convict in the marshes leaves a stain on his conscience that stays with him into his adulthood. The incident not only makes him feel a sense of guilt that follows him throughout the story, but makes him view crime itself as a literal contaminant that can blemish his identity. As he grows older, the guilt of disobeying his sister and Joe mixes with the shame of...

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