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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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Returning to Miss Havisham's, Pip sees it all in fairy-tale
terms: he is the Knight, Estella is the Princess, and Satis House
is an enchanted castle to be freed from its spell. This romantic
view exists easily alongside his rational knowledge that
Estella's not perfect. Dickens is working out his definition of
love-an emotion that is so powerful and perverse that it can
survive any attacks from mere reality.

In this fairy-tale house, figures from Pip's past magically
appear. The first is Orlick, who's now the porter, like a sullen
dragon guarding the gate. Sarah Pocket pops up next, a green-
and-yellow gremlin. When he finally reaches Miss Havisham's
room, Pip sees an elegant lady-a stranger, he thinks, until he
sees her eyes and knows it's Estella.

Pip may have changed a lot, but Estella has changed even
more, putting more distance than ever between her and Pip. All
of his self-confidence wilts before this beauty. Estella has
developed a woman's languid, detached manner to lure men on,
as opposed to her girlish, spiteful manner. Walking in the
garden with Pip, she alternately does and doesn't remember the
incidents etched so deeply in his memory, as though she's
teasing him. Carelessly, she tells him that she has no heart-a
bold, shocking statement such as Miss Havisham likes to make.
But something about Estella reminds Pip of somebody else-not
Miss Havisham-he can't place it. If you've ever had this kind
of deja vu sensation, you can imagine how it's going to nag Pip
until he places it.

Back inside, Miss Havisham is unchanged and grotesque. She
feeds ravenously on Pip's admiration of Estella, repeating to
him fiercely "Love her," working herself into a violent fit. As
Pip calms her, a scent alerts him to another familiar presence:
Jaggers. Even Miss Havisham acts afraid of Jaggers, who,
under the influence of this household, seems an exaggerated
version of himself, more cynical and insinuating. He questions
Pip accusingly about Estella and Miss Havisham, and torments
Sarah Pocket by referring to Pip's expectations. Estella seems
fascinated by him, maybe because he never looks at her (men
usually don't treat her that way).

The house Pip thought of as a fairy-tale is turning into a
nightmare. Sarah Pocket is pulling out her hair in the next
room, Miss Havisham is strewing jewels all over Estella, and
the playing cards even seem to be coming alive to Pip. The
effect is heightened since it is viewed through Pip's seething
emotions. He blames Jaggers' cold presence for crushing his
passionate feelings, yet Pip himself is penning up all his
passion. His love twists feverishly in his mind: he longs to have
Estella; then he remembers that she is going to marry him; then
he finds that's not enough, he wants her love, too. In spite of
what she has said about having no heart, he persists in
believing his own fairy tale about her: that she's a sleeping
beauty and he will awaken her.

Pip has been feeling guilty about not visiting Joe, but Satis
House, which always brings out the worst in him, makes him
feel ashamed of Joe again. Pip the narrator judges his young
self sternly, pointing out how weak his good intentions were in
the face of selfish love. Do you think Dickens blames Pip?
Your answer will depend on which you think Dickens rates
more highly-loyalty or love.

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes

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