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Great Expectations Themes

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To be able to locate and analyze themes of novels, such as Great Expectations, it is essential to understand the basic definition of a theme: It is a fundamental and often universal idea explored in a literary work. For instance, if we take a closer look at the story of Pip, we discover that the main idea behind the story is ambition and self improvement, which is correlated to the preceding minor themes, including social class, crime, guilt and innocence.

The most important theme throughout the book can be said to be ambition and self-improvement. Pip at heart is an idealist; whenever he is convinced that something is superior to what he has, he immediately desires to obtain that improvement. This is best illustrated when he sees Satis house, which puts him into a state of mind of desiring to be a wealthy gentleman. In this novel, Pip's ambition and self-improvement takes three forms: moral, social, and educational. Firstly, he desires moral self-improvement and is very hard on himself when he feels that he acts immorally, by trying to act better in the future. This can be noticed when Pip leaves for London and is disappointed with his behavior towards Biddy and Joe. Secondly he desires social self-improvement, after having fallen in love with Estella, who demands Pip to act according to high society. His fantasies of becoming a gentleman are further fueled by Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook. These fantasies prove to be very significant throughout the plot, since the author uses these ideas of social class to explore the class system of his period. Thirdly, Pip desires educational improvement, which is deeply connected to his social ambition and dream of marrying Estella. Ultimately, through the examples of Joe, Biddy and Magwitch, Pip learns that social and educational improvement are irrelevant to one's real worth and that conscience and affection are to be valued above social ranking.

Throughout the novel, the author explores the class system of Victorian England, ranging from the criminal Magwitch, to the poor peasants Joes and Biddy, to the middle class of Pumblechook, and finally to the rich Miss Havisham. This theme, being the procedure that people where categorized into classes, is essential throughout the story, since Pip realizes that wealth and class are less significant than affection, loyalty, and inner worth. The most important fact to be remembered about the post-industrial revolution class system is that Dickens ignores the nobility and aristocracy in favor of the main theme of this novel: ambition. The rich Miss Havisham did not acquire her wealth through heredity, but

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