Debate Over the Second Ending to Great Expectations

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 13:05   /   Views: 246
Debate Over the Second Ending to Great Expectations

Charles Dickens wrote two endings to the book Great Expectations. The original ending was not published in the first edition because Bulwerlytton convinced Dickens to write a nicer, sugary ending to please his audience. Although these critics feel that the revised ending is more suitable, others would agree that the original ending best fits the book. The original ending suits the attitude of the book. It also brings Pip full circle with his attitude change and with his gold and iron chains. The revised, sugary ending lacks many characteristics, which were found in the original ending. Those characteristics helped the original ending complete the story well.

Great Expectations’ original ending best follows the tone of the book. Gissing expresses this idea when he writes that it was “...a book which Dickens meant, and rightly meant, to end in the minor key” (26) The original ending adheres best to the theme and flow of the story. “Its beginning is unhappy; its middle is unhappy; and the conventional happy ending is an outrage on it” (Shaw 42). In the original ending, Pip goes full circle by leaving behind his obnoxious side and coming closer to his innocent, pure side. In Penguin Critical Studies: Great Expectations, Brooks writes, “[In the revised ending] He [Pip], like Magwitch, is bound upon the wheel of the ‘eternal shape’ of his past” (122). The revised ending does not allow Pip to undergo his full transformation from an obnoxious boy to a grown man, where he would be leaving his past behind him. Instead, the revised ending has Pip leaving with Estella, which forces Pip to live through the evils of his past forever.

Pip undergoes some very significant changes throughout his life. When the story begins, he is a humble boy who loves Joe for who Joe is. Then, Pip is introduced to Estella, and he falls in love with her for her looks. When Pip receives money from a mysterious benefactor and moves to London to become a gentleman, he develops a snobbish attitude towards Joe. Pip is also embarrassed of his connections to Magwitch. When Magwitch gets caught, Pip develops a close bond with him. Once Magwitch dies, Pip falls ill.

Pip’s illness, then, enables him to redeem his memory of Joe as earlier, he has redeemed his memory of Magwitch. The laying aside of…the phantoms permits the relinquishing of his snobbish and unworthy feelings to Joe so that he can be seen for what he has been all along.... (Brooks-Davies 118)

The “phantoms” mentioned, are the people in Pip’s life who created his snobbish feelings towards Joe and Magwitch. To “relinquish” these feelings, Pip must rid himself of all the phantoms, including Estella.

Throughout the book, there is a recurring theme of Pip’s love for Estella, and Estella’s cruelty to Pip. Estella recognizes that she will never change, and she tries to tell Pip this numerous times. For example, Estella says, “‘I have not bestowed my tenderness anywhere. I have never had such thing’” (Dickens 259). Critic Albert Hutter reflects on this when he disagrees with the revised ending, saying it changes Estella’s personality, giving her the heart she said she would never have. John Lucas also dislikes the revised ending because he feels that “Pip has to learn that there can be no going back [to Estella]...” (313) Pip needs to understand that Estella was part of his fantasies and that she will never love him truly for she has told him so. Pip needs to move on with his life and find a new love instead of trying to reach for a lost cause.

As Pip grows through Great Expectations, he creates a “long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers” (Dickens 83) and connects different people to each of the chains he creates. Pip connects his family and all of his childhood acquaintances (Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch) to his iron chains, or the chain of reality. He connects Ms. Havisham, Estella, and all of London to his gold chains, or his chain of dreams and fantasies. Pip goes through his life with the dream that Ms. Havisham is his benefactor, and she has arranged for him to marry Estella in London. When Pip finds out that Magwitch is his benefactor, Pip does not want to have anything to do with the money he has received. It is not until Magwitch is caught and the money is gone that Pip starts to truly care for Magwitch. Pip is then in massive debt, and he gets violently ill when Joe comes and rescues him from debtor’s prison. When Pip comes home to visit Joe and to ask for Biddy’s hand in marriage, he finds that Joe and Biddy are going to be married. Biddy and Pip have a discussion about Estella where Pip says “I have forgotten nothing in my life that ever had a foremost place there. But little that ever had any place there. But that poor dream as I once use to call it, has all gone by, Biddy, all gone by!” (518) Pip has finally affirmed that he will never forget Estella, but he does not love her anymore. Therefore, he could not come back and marry Estella, as is alluded to in the revised ending.

Even though some critics prefer the revised ending, most critics feel that the original ending should be the only ending to the book. The original ending is most appropriate for Great Expectations because Pip and Estella keep their respectable attitudes and Pip goes full circle. The themes that flow throughout the book are preserved and the attitude is consistent all the way through the story.

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