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Essay on The Theme of Imprisonment in Great Expectations

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The Theme of Imprisonment in Great Expectations

 
    The renowned poet, Richard Lovelace, once wrote that "Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." Although many think of a prison as a physical building or a jailhouse, it can also be a state of mind. A great number of people are imprisoned mentally and emotionally. Charles Dickens expresses this message in his eminent novel, Great Expectations. This book is about a simple laboring boy who grew into a gentleman, and slowly realized that no matter what happened in his life it couldn't change who he was on the inside. On the road to this revelation, Pip meets many incarcerated people. Through these people, Dickens delivers the message that people can be imprisoned mentally and emotionally, and only through love are they liberated.

 

 

The first interned person that we meet is Miss Havisham, a bitter old woman whose life suddenly came to a halt when she was jilted on her wedding day. After this devastating event, Miss Havisham confines herself in her house, wearing her yellowing wedding dress with all the clocks stopped at 8:40 - the exact time she was walked out on. When Pip comments on the eeriness of the house, she answers, "So old to me . . . so familiar to me; so melancholy to both of us" (54). When Miss Havisham says this, she is revealing how long she has actually been in the house and how it has stayed unchanged for that entire period of time. By this comment she is also showing her frustration at being confined within herself and within her jadedness. Miss Havisham passes along this jadedness to her adopted daughter, Estella, by teaching her to hurt boys and not become emotionally attached to them. Miss Havisham stays t...


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...sham, Estella, and Magwitch. These characters are each imprisoned in their own way, whether it be through becoming jaded, what they have been taught, or their own hate. They give us insight into human nature by showing us that humans can incarcerate themselves. But although we may imprison ourselves, there is always the chance for liberation.

 

Works Cited and Consulted:

 

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Edgar Rosenberg. New York: Norton, 1999.

 

French, A.L  " Imprisonment: The Case of Great Expectations." Discussions of Charles Dickens, 82-92.  William R. Clark, ed.  Boston: D.C. Heath & Co., 1961.

 

Russell, Frazier.  " 'When I Was A Child'- An Introduction to Great Expectations."  Yahoo Homepage, 1. Penguin Reading Guides, 7 Nov. 2000.   <www.penguinputnam.com/academic/classics/rguides/dickens/frame.html>.


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