In “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens the narrative is fraught with symbolism to examine the expectation of the key characters. Throughout this writing I endeavor to explore the presence of symbolism and discover the symbolic relationship to the narrative and expectations of the individual characters.
Within “Great Expectations” there is a lot of mist imagery. These mists mainly persist throughout the mashes of Pip’s home. These mists have a continuous presence throughout the novel. Dickens may also have intended for the mists to be symbolic of Pip’s inability to understand and comprehend the darkness he encounters. Showing a sense of confusion with the presence of mist. Pip still has many conflicts as he becomes as an adult as he did as a childin the beginning of the book. Pip has a very confused sense of finances, love, morality, and relationships. The reader sees that he has lost his ability to find his way not only in the mists, but also in life as well. The symbolism indicates a skewed sense of expectations not realistic to the character’s current situation.
The mist often takes on Biddy’s voice in Pip’s head, reminding of the expectations she holds regarding his sense of morality. “once more, the mists were rising as I walked away. If they disclosed to me, as I suspect they did, that I should never come back, and that Biddy was quite right, all I can say is—they were quite right, too."(Dickens, 2010). Dickens uses personification, giving the mists a human like quality to guide Pip (at least in Pip’s mind!). He seeks to use the Biddy’s influence to reveal truths that have been hidden from him, she expects him to never give up on his search for the truth.
Symbolism of Social Classes
Estella is one example of how social class can impact one’s expectations in life. The daughter of a criminal, no one expects Estella to ever make much of herself causing her to be bitter and cold. Estella does have expectations of herself to rise against the unfortunate circumstances of her birth and understand herself in a way that does not involve her past.
Overall, “Great Expectations” uses symbolism, such as mist, dresses, and social classes to represent unfortunate events and character uncertainties about their expectations. In “Great Expectations”, mist is also a metaphor for Pip’s fear and struggle with conflict and how he struggles to meet the expectations he sets for himself. The mists are somewhat personified in the novel, giving it an important role in relating the mood of the stories and serving as a moral compass to Pip in the form of Biddy’s voice. Estella and Ms. Havisham are both effect by the events of their past, symbols such as the mansion, the dress, and their social class all impact the expectations they set for themselves. Estella expects herself to teach her true self not the image projected upon her because of her criminal parent. Ms. Havisham is determined to hold onto her own and expects herself to remain dedicated to the idea of revenge. Overall some of the characters expect to rise above their current positions and some expect themselves to remain true to their current state.
Dickens, C. (2012). Great Expectations. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press.