Irony in Novel's Main Idea

Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations follows the story of a boy who helps out a criminal and lives with his decision and his choice of deceit, while his great expectations carry him through his childhood. Pip lives in a small cottage with his sister who raises him under her stubborn, selfish rule, taking the role of a mother. Pip’s family belongs to the lower spectrum of the middle class, which later encourages Pip to better himself in order to improve his status for the heart of a lady named Estella.

Dickens incorporates irony into the main idea of the novel in order to create a dynamic story with the effect of suspense as the development of the juxtaposition of wealth and class occurs, giving birth to a complex plot as the main characters evolve as the novel progresses towards its conclusion.

In the beginning of the novel, Pip is outside on his own and is threatened by a criminal on the loose.

Pip decides to help the rugged man and steals food from his own pantry in order to feed him. Pip, when confronted, lies about this and goes along with the idea of the convict stealing the food. Later on Pip is invited to visit the Satis House, which is the name of the house belonging to Miss Havisham. The Satis House was a beautiful house with the finest of luxuries. Ironically, the word Satis comes from the Latin word of being enough. It is ironic because the name is implying that the residents of the household are satisfied or content with life.

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However, the fact is quite opposite being that Miss Havisham is the owner.

Miss Havisham develops as a tragic figure who, after being abandoned at the altar on her wedding day, attempts to wreak vengeance on all males by having her pretty ward be cruel to boys and men. Estella is never content either, because she is brought up alone and taught to be selfish and hateful. At this point the reader is aware that Miss Havisham’s intentions are not honorable. Pip is unaware of these intentions until later in the novel. When Estella tells Pip she won’t play cards with him, Miss Havisham whispers to her, providing her reasoning for inviting Pip over and he vaguely hears what she said, “I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer- only it seemed so unlikely…’ Well? You can break his heart” (Ch. 8). This is an example of dramatic irony, as the reader has knowledge of Miss Havisham’s true intentions while Pip is unaware. Throughout the novel, Pip believes that Miss Havisham is his benefactor and hopes that it would be revealed to him.

As the novel comes towards its conclusion the greatest example of irony is revealed, the identity of Pip’s benefactor. When Pip had aided Abel Magwitch, the convict, by stealing food for him, he was forced to live with his decision through his life. Pip finds out that Magwitch is his benefactor. He becomes very confused and is very shocked by this discovery, because he was so set in the idea that it was Miss Havisham, “For now, my repugnance to him had all melted away and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously, towards me…” Magwitch, also having a difficult upbringing and making various unwise decisions recognizes a similarity in Pip’s life and with his aim to make up for his previous actions, desiring approval from society itself.

Also, Pip finds out that Magwitch is Estella’s father, which leads him to question everything. This is an example of great irony because Estella had placed and identified herself at the top of society, looking down on others and believing that she is above everybody else. She convinced herself of these things meanwhile she’s actually worse off than Pip. Pip was born into the middle class, far from royalty, however, Estella would be considered as belonging to the lowest class as well as status, being the daughter of a criminal. The reader also finds out the ironic truth of Miss Havisham as she has been training Estella ever since she was a child so that she may seek revenge on males. When her goal was accomplished and Pip has been considerably hurt, Miss Havisham feels remorseful rather than victorious.

‘Oh,’ she cried despairingly, ‘What have I done! What have I done!’ Great Expectations follows the story of Pip, an orphan boy who is taken in by a blacksmith’s family. Throughout his childhood, his life is characterized by good luck and he has great expectations for his life in the future. As the story goes on Pip’s luck fades away and his expectations die as he is left with the harsh reality of life and as he discovers his true place in society and the identity of those who influence him. Throughout the novel, irony is used in many areas in order to build suspense and create tension as the idea of wealth and class are developed.

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Irony in Novel's Main Idea. (2022, Dec 20). Retrieved from

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