Great Expectations

Theme

Hope and social exclusion are two competing themes. The eponymous "Expectations" refers to its Victorian definition, "a legacy to come".[83] The title immediately announces that money plays an important part in the novel and its themes but is only part of a broader package whose coherence John Hillis-Miller highlights in his book, Charles Dickens, The World of His Novels.[52]

John Hillis-Miller first shows that, as in many novels by Dickens, most characters, and in the beginning, the protagonist, are "outcasts" living in insecurity. Thus, Pip, orphaned, grows up in a world full of sinister tombs, dangerous swamps, and threatening masses of prison ships emerging from the fog that dominate the shores. His existence reproaches him: "I was always treated as if I had insisted on being born in opposition to the dictates of reason, religion and morality".[84]

Some of the major themes of Great Expectations are crime, social class, empire and ambition. From an early age, Pip feels guilt; he is also afraid that someone will find out about his crime and arrest him. The theme of crime comes into even greater effect when Pip discovers that his benefactor is a convict. Pip has an internal struggle with his conscience throughout the book. Great Expectations explores the different social classes of the Georgian era. Throughout the book, Pip becomes involved with a broad range of classes, from criminals like Magwitch to the extremely rich like Miss Havisham. Pip has great ambition, as demonstrated constantly in the book.


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