Prompt: Redemption is the central idea in the novel. Examine how Dickens creates characters who, despite having lived through questionable, tragic, or sad circumstances, are redemptive in nature. Examine any three (3) characters. What do we learn as a result?
Taken place in mid-19th century England, Charles Dickens shows the lessons of a Bildungsroman in, “Great Expectations.” It showcases the young and adventurous life of Pip, a boy living on the English countryside with his older sister Mrs. Joe and her husband, a blacksmith, Mr. Joe. Pip’s dream is to become a gentleman, and along the way he meets many different people that assist him in his progress to achieve a higher social status. These people have encountered various events in their life that have traumatized them and also affected Pip in some way. A few of them were once conflicts, and in the end were turned into friendships. Pip, in the end, helps each one of them realize what they did wrong in the past and how it affected others including Pip himself. Dickens portrays characters that are emotionally, physically, and mentally traumatized and that are redemptive in nature.
One of the first people that started Pip on his path to becoming a gentleman is Miss Havisham. When Pip firsts visits the Satis House, he realizes that everything in Miss Havisham’s room and her wedding dress were once white and beautiful, but now turned into a yellow and decaying color. All the clocks have stopped and mice are eating a long expired wedding cake. At first, Miss Havisham seems to be very execrable, and treats Pip very harshly. Pip ponders through the various visits why does Miss Havisham not take care of herself, her personal belongings, and her surroundings. It is only until through a conversation with Herbert that he finds out that a long time ago, Miss Havisham had a lover that was about to marry her. That man, Compeyson, sought only to take her fortune and left her at the altar. This event emotionally traumatized her, and from then on she has been cloistered in her home with everything including herself decaying. She demonstrates to Pip, who is desperately in love with Estella, the consequences of such trauma. She is redemptive in nature because she now swears revenge against all men, believing that it is men who leave poor women like Miss Havisham in her current state.
They say that some diseases spread quickly, and you may relate that to Miss Havisham spreading her “poisonous cold-hearted attitude” to her daughter, Estella. This is the reason why the first time Pip came over, she treated him like the common-laboring, bourgeoisie boy that he is: “…Miss Havisham would embrace her with lavish fondness, murmuring something in her ear that sounded like, “Break their hearts, my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy” (Dickens 74). Even though Estella’s attitude becomes more and more capricious every time Pip goes to the Satis House, his love and desire for her grows larger and larger. Miss Havisham takes pleasure in watching Pip struggle to get Estella to like him, somewhat imagining this to be a punishment to all mankind and not even thinking about how it will affect all of them in the future. Later on in the book, Pip visits Satis House for the last time and finally makes Miss Havisham realize what she has done: “What have I done!..she had done a grievous thing in taking an impressionable child to mould into the form that her wild resentment, spurned affection, and wounded pride, found vengeance in” (Dickens 312). Even though she seems doleful at that moment, she sees that she taught Estella to like the wrong men all these years. She is so ashamed at what she did that she throws herself at the fire and almost kills herself. This shows how she is redemptive in nature by displaying how she decides to sacrifice her life to repay for her mistake that caused Estella not to like Pip all these years.
Next we have Abel Magwitch, a man that in the beginning, Dickens