A symbolic analysis
Krishti Aung Leona is amazed at Dicken\'s literary magic-wand
Krishti Aung Leona is amazed at Dicken's literary magic-wand “But, I saw everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow.'' (Pip, Chapter 8)
Charles Dickens remains the most widely read of the Victorian novelists. Dickens unsurpassed in his creation of distinctively cruel and repugnant characters. In his thirteenth and penultimate novel Great Expectations Dickens has vividly used the literary technique of Symbolism.
The novel opens unforgettably in a twilit and overgrown churchyard on the eerie Kent mashes. The setting of plot's beginning itself suggests the themes related to the novel. Let's begin with the Satis House also known as the Manor house. The name of the house is highly symbolic and ironical. ''Is that the name of this house, miss?'' 'One of its names, boy.' 'It has more than one, then miss?' 'Its other name was Satis; which is Greek, or Latin, or Hebrew, or all three ---- or all one to me --- for enough.'' 'Enough House!' said I: 'that's a curious name, miss.' (Chapter 8). The Satis House which literally meant 'Enough House' in Greek has two main inhabitants who are unsatisfied and in despair. Miss Havisham, the old woman dressed in her bridal dress along with her adopted daughter Estella lives in the Satis House. The house symbolizes devastation, disappointment and despair. The Satis House is where all good things come to an end, and it plays its role very well throughout the book. This is where Miss Havisham was betrayed by her fiancé on her wedding day twenty years back. Her fiancé left her on the altar and ran away with her money. ''No glimpse of the daylight was to be seen in it'' (Chapter 8). No passage for sunlight in the Satis House symbolized that time was frozen there. No new day could bring the light of hope for the dwellers in the house. They lived in the poignant past. The house holds everything that reminded Miss Havisham of her dark past. From the rotten bug-infected bridal cake, to the stopped clocks, the wax-candles, half packed trunks scattered, Miss Havisham's wedding jewelry, one shoe, etc.
The Satis House also symbolizes disappointment for Pip as this is where he comes to know the real intentions of Miss Havisham. ''Estella not designed for me; I only suffered in Satis House as a convenience, a sting for the greedy relations.'' (Chapter 39). He realizes that Miss Havisham has exploited her adopted daughter Estella to break his heart. He realizes that Estella is merely Miss Havisham's pawn who is trained to break hearts to seek revenge of Miss Havisham's past from men. Although Pip once over hears Miss Havisham encouraging Estella to torment him, however he reassures himself that he heard it wrong. ''Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!'' (Chapter 12).
The misty marsh where the plot opens symbolizes uncertainty and obscurity of the characters. They add a gothic essence to the novel. The marshes play a significant role. This is where the readers are first introduced with the protagonist Pip as an orphan trying to figure how his parents looked when they were alive. ''The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair.'' (Chapter 1). These lines which are on the very page of the novel describing a scene where Pip is at the graveyard near to his parents tombstones, trying to figure how they looked when they were alive makes the reader sympathize with Pip immediately from the very beginning. The marshes are also important because this is where Pip first encounters an escaped convict, Magwitch. ''Hold your noise!' cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. Keep still you little devil, or I'll cut your throat!'' (Chapter 1). This dramatic encounter changes both their lives. The rising mists on the marshes offer Pip moments of clarity. The mists offer Pip with truth and clarity. When Pip tells his school friend, the kind-hearted orphan girl Biddy, that one day he shall return and Biddy does not agree to his words, the mists rise. "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" (Chapter 35). The magical mists also seem to rise at the end of the novel when Pip reunites with Estella. ''I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists has risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.'' (Chapter 59). It seems that the mists have a divine and soulful connection with Pip. The rising mists are ''personified'' within the novel by Pip.
It is important to take note that iron symbolically accommodated several parts of the novel. "Great Expectations" was written at the time of the Industrial Revolution which is greatly marked by the use of ''iron'' in factories. Iron with coal allowed production to be cheaper and faster. This revolution made an opportunity for the proletariats to go up to the bourgeois class. For instance in the beginning of the novel when Pip first encounters Magwitch he is bound with a great iron on his leg, here iron is symbolized as the unjust justice system. "A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes." (Chapter 1). When Pip meets Estella at the abandoned old brewery, as Estella goes up using the iron staircase of the brewery, iron here symbolizes the class distinction between Pip and Estella. "I saw her pass among the extinguished fires, and ascend some light iron stairs, and go out by a gallery high overhead, as if she were going out into the sky." (Chapter 8). The importance of ''Iron'' within the novel also suggests the timeline of the novel. One of the novel's frequent mentions in "Darkness and Light." This contrast also connotes and symbolizes the class distinction between Pip and Estella or the Proletariats and Bourgeois.
The old-brewery symbolizes the dilapidation of the old aristocracy and rise of the proletariats. ''And saw that at the side of the house there was a large brewery. No brewing was going on in it, and none seemed to have gone on for a long time.'' (Chapter 8). Here again, everything sums up to the Industrial Revolution and how it dramatically changed the social status of the masses. Other symbols such as keys symbolize: accessibility and inaccessibility. Bentley Drummle plays a minor character in the novel however is a major symbol in relation to the novel's themes of class, privilege and social changes. Bently symbolizes the ruthless and disrespectful bourgeois heirs. Bently can be taken as foil to Pip as their characters and social upbringing is highly contrasted. Bently inherits wealth and has no principles. On the other hand Pip has to work hard for climbing up the social ladder. Pip realizes through Bently that wealth alone cannot be seen as a virtue and that morals are important. Our protagonist Pip (Phillip Pirrip) comes to realize through Bently the moral virtues and kindness of Magwitch and Joe. Pip regains and finally values moral worth.
Krishti Aung Leona is schooling with Notre Dame University Bangladesh (NDUB)