How are the themes that are introduced in the first five chapters reflected in the rest of the novel? In chapters 1-5, a number of pivotal events occur in Great Expectations that affect the characters and their actions in many different ways. In this part of the novel, Dickens introduces themes that are subsequently carried on throughout the novel. For instance, guilt is reflected continuously. Pip is shown as a guilty character, and battling with his guilty conscience becomes apparent and affects him. Death is also part of all the characters lives.
In the opening of the novel we are introduced to some of the main characters, Magwitch and Pip. Pip is also the narrator and he tells us that his parents are dead. Pips immaturity and childhood fears are explored in some detail. In this story there is a definite social class division. The way Pip transforms and becomes a gentleman of a higher social class. Also the way criminals and Pip, as well as other characters are treated unjust and the way they go about getting justice. I will explore these themes in greater detail.
The opening chapter in the novel begins with Pip telling us about his dead parents and siblings. ‘on the authority of his tombstone’. Dickens does this to give us an idea as to what one of the main themes are in the novel, death. This tells us that death has already become part of Pip’s life, and that he must already have serious emotional scars caused by death. The theme of death carries on throughout the novel, this is shown in a few different ways. One way death is carried on is the death of Pip’s sister and parent guardian Mrs Joe.
‘It was the first time that a grave had opened in my road of life, and the gap it made in the smooth ground was wonderful. The figure of my sister sat in her chair by the kitchen fire haunted me night and day’ When a loved one dies, we would normally grieve for them, not describe the memories of them as haunting, However Mrs Joe was not loving to Pip and they didn’t have the regular brother sister bond. The way he described the tragic event as wonderful shows maybe he didn’t grieve or miss Mrs Joe. The death of two other main characters in this novel also carries on the theme of death.
We know Magwitch led a sinful and corrupt life. He committed crimes and wasn’t a pleasant person. However Magwitch dies peacefully and quietly. This suggests he was repented of his sins and forgiven for what he had done. This was because of his apologies to Pip, and remorse for giving up his daughter Estella. However, Miss Havisham died in a violent fire. The way Dickens chose for Miss Havisham to die in a fire gives us the idea that it links to hell and sins. Miss Havisham wasn’t a very nice person. She tormented Pip when he went to play at her house, making him feel uncomfortable.
She also led Pip and his family to believe she was Pips benefactor. She never said she was but she did know Pip thought she was his benefactor because Pip went to visit her to say thank you and she could have told him the truth, also the way she is cruel to men and teaches Estella to be also suggests she wasn’t a nice person and maybe deserved to die this way. This cannot be coincidence. The characters in this novel get what they deserve, and bad things happen to the characters that have not lead a moralistic life.
There is a very strong portrayal of the theme death throughout the novel as it shows that death is a punishment not just part of life. From the novel we know that Pip didn’t have an easy childhood. He was always living in fear and made fun of. In chapter one we learn that Pip is an orphan. ‘As I never saw my father or my mother’ For any child never to see their parents must be very distressing. A child needs parents to be loved by throughout their childhood, and to be brought up by. However, Pips parent figure is his sister, Mrs Joe Gargery.
His sister frequently uses violence towards pip. ‘Knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand’ For a child’s parent figure to be violent must make the child feel un-loved. He has no one to show affection except Joe, his sister’s husband. ‘Joe’s station and influence were something feebler (if possible) when there was company… but he always aided and comforted me when he could’. Pip can turn to Joe, but Joe is unable to support Pip as he has no confidence and is not respected by others. The use of the word ‘feebler’ suggests that Joe is in the same position as Pip or even worse.
His immediate family doesn’t just torment Pip, the visitors push him aside and are indictive towards him. They are cruel and he is bullied continuously. ‘I was squeezed in at an acute angle on the table cloth, with the Pumblechookian elbow in my eye’ This gives us an image of Pip sat at the table squeezed on the corner with no room. This shows there was no space for Pip and he was unwanted. Strangers also bully pip. For example on the marches when he is approached by Magwitch and Pip is scared for his life. ‘Keep still you little devil, or ill cut your throat’
Wherever Pip goes he seems to get bullied in some way. For a child to go through this life must be difficult. Childhood should be a time of enjoyment; instead he is unwanted, has no parents and is bullied. We know that Mrs Joe is Pips guardian, but she isn’t a parent figure. She is not someone who Pip can look up to and idolise like many children do. He can turn to Joe, however throughout the novel he is shown more as an equal than a parental figure. ‘I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand’
Normally we use the phrase ‘brought up’ when we say a child has been brought up by their parents, as in being punished and taught life lessons. However we wouldn’t normally use the phrase when saying an adult was bringing up another adult. However Dickens does this to show how equal Pip and Joe were. This makes us believe for a moment that Joe and Pip are siblings, because they are treated the same. The duties of a parent include protecting the child, but if Joe is more of an equal he cannot protect Pip from the violence inflicted on him by his sister. This must make Pip feel helpless.
In a normal relationship between a child and a parental figure the child would be able to ask for help and feel they were secure in the company of this adult, however Joe is just as scared as Pip is so this must make him feel even worse, because Joe’s fear of Mrs Joe shows Pip that Mrs Joe is a woman to fear. This is because children see adults as fearless and brave, but Joe is afraid, which highlights how bad Mrs Joe is to live with. The way Pip says him and Joe are both brought up by hand shows Pips innocence and immaturity. If Pip was older and had a proper up bringing he would know what the term ‘to be brought up’ meant.
Instead he says him and Joe are both brought up by hand which shows Pip thinks that the term ‘brought up’ means to be punished with violence, like he and Joe both are. This simply emphasises the fact that Pip is very young and nai?? ve, which then makes us sympathise for him because of the torments he has to put up with. Mr and Mrs Joe’s relationship must have some affect on Pip. As we know it is important for a child to grow up in a loving environment instead both mature figures in the household do not have a proper relationship, Pip and Joe both live in a hostile environment because of Mrs Joe.
The way Dickens names Mrs Joe reflects irony. Although the wife of Joe has taken both his names in the traditional patriarchal way (usually suggesting the wife is the husbands property) the Gargery household contrasts the patriarchal tradition. In fact, her husband is treated as a child and Pip and he are the inferior ones within the family. Estella parentage is extremely ironic. She lives in a large house and has a high social status, however her father is an escaped convict, so how can father and daughter belong to different class divisions at opposite ends of the social class spectrum?
The way Estella find it easy to conform with the higher social class lifestyle shows how parentage and childhood ultimately affect how the person will behave in adulthood. This idea is exhibited through the way Estella treats males Estella repeatedly warns Pip that she has no heart. These characteristics that Estella holds come from that of her adoptive mother, Miss Havisham, who was jilted at the alter by her fianci?? , therefore hates all men and is cruel to them.
Estella again shows her lack of respect for males when Pip first goes to visit Satis house with Uncle Pumplechook, and Estella is rude to Mr Pumblecook. ‘ “Oh! ” she said. “Did you wish to see Miss Havisham? ” ‘ ” If Miss Havisham wish to see me’.. ” ‘ “Ah! Said the girl; “but you see she don’t” ‘ The way Estella is rude to Mr Pumblechook shows that she has no respect for males, even her elders. This tells us that Estella isn’t taught common courtesy towards males and Miss Havisham’s bitterness is subsequently transferred to Estella through setting a bad example, which will affect Estella’s live in a negative way.