The passage is the original ending for Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. Clearly, the passage would have altered the novel's plot. In the other (revised) ending, Pip and Estella part as friends. The reader gets a sense that there is still hope for a romance between these two characters. This ending, however, is not so hopeful, although it gives a deeper understanding of Estella. In this passage, Pip feels that Estella has suffered from Miss Havisham's emotional manipulation as he did. This passage, therefore, makes Estella a more empathetic character. The unhappy circumstances of her first marriage described in this passage elicit further empathy.

The passage also conveys the theme of the novel as anti-aristocratic. Neither Pip nor Estella has found happiness while wealthy. At the end of the novel, Pip becomes happier when, having had to work overseas, he returns home and re-establishes ties with Joe and Biddy. The young Pip mentioned in the passage is their son. When Pip reconnects with his working-class roots and begins his modest employment as a clerk he is much more content with life than when he was attempting to be a “gentleman." This passage, then, illustrates Dickens's notion that members of the aristocracy are often morally flawed while the lower-middle and working classes are not: people, he implies, should be judged on their work, not on their clothes. Estella's deceased husband, Bentley Drummle, demonstrates throughout the book that wealth may produce negative character traits. Drummle is selfish and cruel, and, although a gentleman technically, is not the gentle man that Joe is, for Joe treats everyone with respect and kindness.

Other responses by students in English 3412, Lakehead University, Ontario


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations Discussion questions for Jane Eyre

Last modified 26 April 2004