Great Expectations

Pip and Estella are reunited. Why do their paths cross and how has Estella changed since the last time Pip has seen her? (consider the modified ending for this

Chapter 59

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The final chapter of Great Expectations remains a controversy with critics even today. Dickens had initially written a different ending in which Pip runs into Estella on a London street but she has not changed at all and he, in turn, feels none of the old feelings for her. Though much more depressing, many critics consider the first ending more true to the story's themes. Their argument, in some cases, is that the entire point of the book was that Pip must come to realize happiness through his own internal process and not through some external situation (such as position or wealth) or person (like Estella).

Nevertheless, there is some justice in Estella and Pip finally finding love in each other. Because of their difficulties, they seem both to have come to a realization of what it means to be happy and therefore are ready for a healthy relationship with each other. Chapter Nineteen demonstrated that Pip had been living an upright life for 11 years when he finally runs into Estella again. Estella might be seen as the final reward for a true Victorian gentleman.

And, although we are not witness to Estella's transformation from ice queen to sensitive lady, we, as readers, must in the end forgive her for her treatment of Pip. Estella, moreso than Pip, represents the abused child, the true victim of circumstance, that Dickens presents in many other characters throughout his novels. Estella had no choice in her lot in life -- she was born to criminals and brought up to be emotionless by a cold, vengeful woman. Even Estella's marriage to Drummle, and her abuse in that relationship, is predesigned by powers beyond her control. While Pip had good friends in Joe and Herbert and Wemmick, Estella had only jealously bitter relatives.

Estella's life, in fact, is nearly identical to the lives of both her criminal parents. She has been trapped, nearly imprisoned, throughout her life, but literally and figuratively. Estella is trapped in a house without daylight for her entire childhood and then moved, like a prisoner herself, to houses in Paris and then London. Finally, she ends up trapped in an abusive marriage. Estella's past, her roots, her beginnings, are symbolized not by the warm fire of the forge, as is Pip's case, but in the barren empty lot where the Satis House once stood.

Estella is the true victim of society's values. It is a miracle that she emerged sane or with any feelings at all. And so, like Pip, we must forgive her and wish the two of them well.