Great Expectations

Constructing Identity in Great Expectations

"We have no choice, you and I, but to obey our instructions. We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I." (265).

The question of self-determination is central in Great Expectations. Dickens struggles to determine and express to what extent an individual person decides his own fate. This struggle is represented in the lives of two orphans, Pip and Estella, who are searching for their own identities. Both are heavily influenced by other characters, in particular their respective benefactors. The difference between them lies in whether this influence comes only from the benefactor, or if it is internalized, and they are shaped by their own psyches as well. While both Pip and Estella are shaped by other people and by circumstances in Great Expectations, and to an extent find comfort in this subservience, this control is far more encompassing for Estella. Estella is shaped emotionally so that another determines her very character and identity. Pip, however, is controlled more externally, and has more power to think independently and form his own character and central identity, allowing him a greater potential for moral redemption in the end of the novel.

Estella is a person who has been turned completely into an...

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