By: Shannon Gao
Articulate the implicit thesis for Great Expectations. Then, compare and contrast the two different endings (Dickens’ original draft and the one popularly published) to determine which works best. Given your argument regarding Dickens’ implicit thesis for the entirety of the text, which of the two endings makes for a better fit? Explain. In your response, look to: ● clearly articulate and support an implicit thesis for the novel; ● provide sophisticated and nuanced critical analysis from both endings; ● incorporate specific and relevant textual evidence from throughout the novel in support of your thesis and topics; ● include an introductory and concluding paragraph; My teacher wanted us to include our own voice; the sarcasm, wit, and humor, but I don’t know where to draw the line. ______ 3. Utilizes textual evidence from throughout the novel ______ 4. Incorporates consistent critical analysis ______ 5. Demonstrates a consistent voice ______ 6. Evidence thorough editing/proofreading
Madonna's song “Material Girl” has been trending on TikTok a lot lately, so of course, I had to take a listen. The song is catchy, cute, and who doesn't love Madonna?! After about the third listen, I began to pay attention to the lyrics, which are quite dark. The song is about a girl who doesn't care about the man; she doesn't care about how they treat her and how they dance, just how much money he has and how well he spends it. Hence, she is a “material girl” because she only cares about the material worth of the men she dates. Madonna's ‘material girl’ made me think of a certain character in Great Expectations: Estella. Estella didn't care about how much Pip loved, cared, or adored her; as long as Pip wasn’t rich, or ‘common’ she wouldn’t want him. This led to Pip believing his worth relied on his status and wealth. This attitude toward the relationship between wealth and human worth led to both Estella's and Pip’s misery. These characters' collective suffering leads me to believe that Dickens is saying someone’s worth shouldn’t be determined by their material wealth; therefore, the published version is more fitting because only when Pip and Estella put aside their opinions on money could they be together.
Materialistically aside, money is useless, money makes no difference in Pip and Estella’s happiness. The truth of the cliché, “money can't buy you happiness” was not evident for Estella in the original ending, as she “lead a most unhappy life, and as being separated from her husband who had used her with great cruelty, and who had become quite renowned as a compound of pride, brutality, and meanness.” (508) Her husband eventually dies and she marries a poor doctor and is now someone that drove a pony cart. Comparing her lavish and comfortable life with Miss Havisham to the poorer life she lives with her abusive husband and is driving a pony cart for a living, it could portray that money really can make a difference to one’s life, like Estella. As for the other ending, Pip is still happy without his great expectations, he even gets to see Estella again and “saw the shadow of no parting from her.” (484) Shadows are the print or reflection of what we do, so this could foreshadow that Pip and Estella would have a happily ever after. Interestingly, there is no mention in this ending of money helping them achieve happiness, rather; it was only when Pip and Estella realized that money isn't what defined them, that they could be happy together. The ending was not the only time that Pip realized money wouldn't bring him happiness. Even when he had his ‘great expectations’, “It was an unhappy life that I lived, and its one dominant anxiety, towering over all its other anxieties; like a high mountain above a range of mountains,” (382). I suppose there is a misconception that money can give people automatic happiness since they could buy whatever they want whenever they want it, however, all the money created for Pip one big anxiety (debt) which towered over other mountains of anxiety. Instead of elevating him to the status of gentleman, money plunged Pip to the lowest point of his life (both physically and mentally) and “corrupted the simplicity of his life and disturbed his peace with anxiety and regrets.” (272).
In both endings, Estella becomes kinder, however in the original ending Pip was “glad afterward to have had that interview; for, in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham’s teaching, and had given her the heart to understand what my heart used to be” (509). Pip had always had this unconditional love for Estella, so I feel like he would have been happy that she had learned compassion, or at least glad to see her at all…? But no, he was glad for her suffering. Pip loved her when she had everything, now she has nothing, and he no longer loved her. I can't help but feel like Pip never moved away from the mindset that someone is defined by their material wealth, and therefore was unable to love Estella as much as he used to. However, in the published text, both Pip and Estella move on from this terrible stereotype of someone's worth, and are able to be friends and truly be happy. When Estella says: “Be as considerate and good to me as you were, and tell me we are friends.” (483) it shows that Estella now realizes Pip’s worth, because the old Estella wouldn't bat an eyelash towards him because he was too common. When Pip tells Estella they can be friends, it shows how no matter how rich or poor Estella had gotten, she was still as special to him as she was to him when they first met. This parallels Joe and Pip's relationship. Because of Estella (who gives him the belief of wealth and worth), Pip starts to become ashamed of Joe, avoids him, and shuns him because he isn't wealthy or educated. Even when it was his last time seeing Joe, he “wished to walk away all alone. I am afraid – sore afraid – that this purpose originated in my sense of the contrast there would be between me and Joe, if we went to the coach together” (159). From loving Joe to not wanting to be seen in public with him, shows how corrupt Pip had become when he started to believe his worth stemmed from his wealth. However, when Joe comes back to take care of Pip (after Pip was very mean to Joe) Pip realizes how much worth Joe had. He wasn't rich, but he was the only one that helped Pip when no one was there. Joe’s love for Pip helps him realize that money can't define Joe, only then was he proud and happy to be associated with him.
No matter if Pip was rich or poor, his core morals and characteristics stayed consistent. In reading the original ending of Great Expectations Pip made no remark on Estella’s beauty. Eleven years earlier he describe her as if she was the Disney princess of his universe, but after eleven years “the lady and I looked sadly enough at one another.” (509) For every chapter proceeding this moment, Pip always idolized her and almost worshiped her, but it seems like he now does not care as much as he used to and no longer describes her as “very pretty” or “beautiful,” in fact, there was nothing. Contrary to the original ending’s portrayal of Pip, in the published ending, it was as if his life had never changed from all the money he had and lost. Even after many years of not seeing her, he still “secretly intended to revisit the site of the old house that evening, alone, for her sake. Yes even so, for Estella's sake.” (482) In other words, after eleven plus years of not seeing her, and many more years of suffering from her cruelty and meanness, he still had a soft spot for Estella. And, as if it were the first time he was meeting her, he said: “The freshness of her beauty was indeed gone, but its indescribable majesty and its indescribable charm remained.” (483) I honestly have lost track of how many times, and how many years he had made comments about how beautiful this girl was to him. Even when he first met her, he described her as a “young lady, who was very pretty and seemed very proud;”(55), which solidifies his love for her. Despite being poor, rich, and very poor, his perspective of Estella fails to change in any of the 59 chapters of his novel.
One of Pip’s primary characteristics is empathy and his willingness to help everyone. However, in the original ending, instead of feeling sorry for Estella, he “was very glad afterward to have had that interview; for, in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham’s teaching, and had given her the heart to understand what my heart used to be.” (509) Estella lived the exact opposite life of Pip–riches to rags. Many people often feel empathy towards those that mirror their current or past insecurity because they don't want them to go through what they did, but for Pip, he felt nothing for poor Estella. This interaction shows how, when Pip burned through the money, his morals burned down as well. However, in the published ending, Pip's love for Estella was timeless, and he had the empathy to forgive her despite the many years of abuse and mistreatment, even the “‘remembrance of our last parting has been ever mournful and painful’”(484) Pip did not feel resentment towards Estella for her terrible and petty leaving, nor for the way she treated him in the past, instead it was “mournful” and “painful” to him. To be mournful might be the highest degree of sadness and despair because it usually describes someone after they have lost someone. I don't know about Pip, but if someone had treated me the way Estella treated Pip, and left me for someone even though they knew I loved them for so long, I would do anything but keep them in my heart for another eleven years. I would key their car, light their house on fire, and maybe, I don't know, crash their wedding; all of these are the result of one of the most unavoidable forces in the world: rejection. But Pip had no vengeance towards Estella, which shows how core and foundational his morals are.
This empathy parallels another dynamic between two characters: Provis and Pip. Since the beginning of the book, Pip had a soft spot for Provis: “I looked over my shoulder, and saw him going on again towards the river, still hugging himself in both arms and picking his way with his sore feet” (7). Pip feels empathy towards him and wants to help him, even though this guy had threatened and scared the poor seven-year-old. Even as he grew older, Pip still continually thought of the convict, showing that he was still worried about and cared for him.
This empathy for Provis continued when he again needed help, but this time on a much larger scale. “Where I might go, what I might do, or when I might return, were questions utterly unknown to me; nor did I vex my mind on them, for it was wholly set on Provis’s safety.” (434) Again, despite being terrified of him, Pip still cared about him. Even when he knew his life was at stake for helping a convict, and that his chambers were being watched, he still agreed to help him–another indication of his strong morals. I often wonder what makes Pip do this. If I was face to face with a sought-after villain and as a result, my life was affected I would either drop everything and run or report him right away, but for Pip to not only stay with Provis but also plan an escape shows how strong his morals were. The fact that he had been like this since the beginning of the book goes to show how money failed to change his morals.
I think both Madonna and Dickens were trying to convey an important message about today's materialistic society by telling stories about characters who fell into the mindset of money, and believing that money is the leading characteristic of somebody. I, too, have found myself using money as a reason to date someone, however with the published ending of Great Expectations, it has greatly helped me be aware that there is so much more to someone than their money, and just because they're materialistically rich doesn't mean they are rich in morals.
“if this was me I would key someones car” and instead say something like “X’s experience illustrates a suffering that everyone will someday face–rejecton.”