Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Dickens’ books Essay

As his name implies, Pip’s progress through Great Expectations is also one of growth, especially in regards to morality. Yet he too does not evolve without attaining scars. His burns, for instance, after ‘saving Miss Havisham from the fire that engulfs her dress can at once seen as a consequence of a noble action, but also a result of a desire to punish a world that has mistreated him. He professes to Miss Havisham from a newly acquired self-knowing level that he could never be bitter with her, and we could easily believe that he has learnt how to perceive others with an understanding eye. However, one must not forget that the ignorance his life has been clouded in may also have embittered him, and rightly so. As a result the fire could at once be seen as Pip’s repressed want or desire for revenge – for vengeance. As he struggles with her on the floor we perceive that these are not the actions of a man who has a refined heart, but a man who has repressed disappointment and pain. He holds her down ‘like a prisoner, who might escape’ and even looses consciousness of who she is or what he is doing. Throughout the novel Pip has to work through this suppressed unconscious, and is never magically delivered to a higher state of morality or refined sentiment. As a child he laments that he had had ‘no intercourse with the world’ and was ‘quite [the] untaught genius’ that had to make ‘the discovery of the line of action for himself’. High morality and refined sentiment are not flat character traits held only by perfect people. They are difficult to attain, and more importantly to abide by, and what makes Pip an exceptional character is that he is not infallible. As a result one must pay attention to the narrator, described as Dickens’ most ‘complex and subtle’16, who is still very much haunted by his past that has helped mould and destroy him. He almost attempts to see himself in a better light that he probably was when he was younger. In fact the ‘profoundest irony of the novel is not reached until the reader realises he must see Pip in a much harsher moral perspective than Pip ever saw himself’.17 As one must remember the episode when Magwitch took the blame for stealing the food – Pip avoids telling the truth. The narrator hopes that this avoidance ‘had some dregs of good at the bottom of it’, thus the child’s motivations are clouded by the older, wiser, almost shamed narrator’s desires to fill the younger Pip’s moral lapses. The latter is certainly not innocent, and is always battling with that ‘inner self [that] was not easily composed’, and such a battle that signifies that he was not born with goodness, is difficult for the narrator to acknowledge. The reader feels pity for Pip but in the same breath Pip abandons the reader as quickly as he abandons Joe. When removing your own sentimental romantising of the youngster, the reading of his character shifts. The narrator is guilty of, if only to a minor degree, manipulating his harsh social relations, ignorance and want to make him look the greater victim. In fact the idea that the older Mr Pip has anymore quietened that inner self, are continually thrown into dispute. He still complains, even when Herbert and Clara had actually opened their arms to him, and allowed him to live with them, that it ‘must not [be left] to be supposed that we were ever a great house, or that we made mints of money. We were not in a grand way of business, but we had a good name, and worked for our profits, and did very well’. He still cannot recognise and respond to the good grace of others. He suggests that what his life has become is a mere second best to what it could have been. That he still secretly hankers for those ‘mints of money’ is regrettably clear. What he appears to be saying is that he merely exists, not living. In many ways Pip is the antithesis of a hero – an anti-hero. He never really reaches high morality or refined sentiment, despite his progress towards them. As a result Great Expectations tears the reader away from the optimism, and that ‘miserable fallacy’ of Dickens’ earlier novels, particularly as the hero can still agonizingly be ignorant of the true value of things. This pull away from optimism however produces realism in Pip. He embodies all the taboo complications of a true person, and as Chesterton argues this includes the, albeit natural human desire to do what is wrong.18 He causes Trabb’s boy to loose his job, and Orlick, and hurts, however unintentionally Biddy and Joe. He is constantly repressing emotions, which ultimately re-emerge as haunting images, such Miss Havisham hanging in the barn, leaving him ‘shuddering from head to foot’. However, in many ways Dickens avoids confronting Pip’s darker side by projecting it onto an outside character- Orlick. The repressed anger within Pip is allowed an outlet in the actions of this stock-villain. For instance he is responsible for the injuring and eventual death of Mrs Joe, which is after-all no great loss to Pip who has more than once suffered under the ‘Tickler’. As a result Orlick plays out the moral lessons or moral consequences that Pip never has to undergo. Orlick suffers the rebuke of Biddy, one wonders whether it should not have been Pip, and he suffers in a fight with Joe, and again should this have not been with Pip? When lured to the limekiln, Orlick poignantly blames Pip for the felling of Mrs Joe. ‘You done it; now you pays for it’, he exclaims, almost as if he realises that he is playing the part of scapegoat, carrying out the many actions that Pip more than likely has fantasised about himself. Pip can at least play the role of victim, as long as there are characters such as Orlick who are willing to take his mirror image role as avenger. Great Expectations is one of the most colourful and at the same time painful novels ever written, ultimately a ‘grotesque tragic-comic experience’.19 It draws of a wealth of characters, yet the considerable thing about the novel is that unlike his earlier work, Dickens does not admit any miraculous transformations at the end. There is no suggestion that anyone has survived their past completely unscathed, from Pip’s burns, to the washing of Mr Jagger’s hands, and no-one is given the privileged place of being magically delivered into the heaven of ‘high morality’ and ‘refined sentiment’. The defining of goodness, ultimately high morality and refined sentiment, has come a long way since Dickens earlier novels. It is a novel in which he is no longer ‘willing or able to make the straight satiric indictment which governs†¦morality’. As a result many of his characters are a tragic mixture, and as Sadrin suggested it is the ‘Dickens myth’ raised to the surface, laid upon the table, dissected and criticised’.21 Despite the Oliver Twist beginning, we meet numerous characters who engage in a series of ontological struggles – Wemmick being the only character to have avoided such by adopting ‘Walworth sentiments’ that exist in an entirely personal world where the self can never forget who they really are. For the reader nevertheless, as well as many for many of the characters, of ‘all [Dickens’] books [that] might be called Great Expectations [and where that ‘miserable fallacy’ was mostly likely to lurk]†¦the only book†¦he gave the name†¦was the only book in which the expectation was never realised’22

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.