Light and Dark: Revealing the Road to Corruption in Great Expectations The symbolic meaning of light and dark has often been linked to themes of good vs. evil, but in the classic coming of age novel Great Expectations, could light and dark signify more? In fact, Charles Dickens’ use of light and dark in Great Expectations may very well reveal how the climb to and attainment of higher social and economic status inevitably leads to corruption.
Pip encounters darkness most notably in his first visit to Satis House where he meets Estella and Miss Havisham. Pip recalls that visit. He and Estella “went into the house by a side door…and the first thing I noticed was that the passages were all dark, and that she had left a candle burning there. She took it up, and we went through more passages and up a staircase and still it was all dark, and only the candle lighted us.” (559) It was in Satis House, the decayed hulk of a place sitting in darkness, where Pip first learned that he was “common”. It was here where his misguided desire to become a gentleman began.
In this visit to Satis House and its darkness the only light bearer is Estella. It is she who guides him through its dark passages with a single candle, a small light that encompasses them both. As Pip left Miss Havishams’ room with Estella, he said “I followed the candle down, as I had followed the candle up. Until she opened the side entrance, I had fancied, without thinking about it, that it must necessarily be night-time… The rush of the daylight quite confounded me, and made me feel as if I had been in the candlelight of the strange room many hours. (562)
Initially, one would wonder why Estella, a haughty, wealthy, beauty would be the light bearer in this dark house. Yet, Estella’s true parentage might explain why she is not in complete darkness like her adoptive mother. The common blood of Molly and Abel Magwitch, and Pip’s adoration of Estella, set her apart from the wealthy, all be it eccentric. Miss Havisham. Both Estella and Pip are trying to find their way in this dark corrupted place.
Darkness encompasses Pip again when he visits Satis House some time after he has learned that Magwitch was his true benefactor. As Jaggers and Pip walk together through that house, Pip said” He complied, and we groped our way down the dark stairs together.” Jaggers, the successful lawyer, who knows the secret of Estella’s birth and whose career rests on the defense of the guilty, is Pip’s guardian in his path of great expectations. In that old house darkness encompassed them both.
Dickens uses darkness again to show how utterly devastated Pip has become after realizing he has been mislead by Miss Havisham, and his great expectations were not as he always dreamed. He writes, “Twilight was closing in when I went down stairs into the natural air. I called to the woman who had opened the gate when I entered, that I would not trouble her just yet, but would walk round the place before leaving. For, I had a presentiment that I should never be there again, and I felt that the dying light was suited to my last view of it.” (570)
Ironically, that same night Pip would witness Miss Havisham’s repentance and horrific injury. It was if the light of a hundred solitary candles ignited as the flames engulfed her and that decayed yellowed wedding dress.
This is not a completed paper. You will need at least three examples from your novel to support your thesis statement. Your concluding paragraph should restate the thesis and end in a broad sweeping statement about the effect of the author’s use of the literary element used.
Use 12 pt. Times New Roman font, double space, and follow the sample for placement of your name and title.