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Confessions of self-displacement in Great Expectations

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Philosophy Teacher's Assistant
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General public
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humanities/...
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Dordt College

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Robert M.
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documents in English
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book reviews
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2 pages
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  1. Introduction
  2. The first unambiguous villain in the novel
  3. The confession of Mrs. Joe
  4. The confession of Miss Havisham
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works cited

One sometimes suspects, while reading Great Expectations, that Dickens could have been good friends with Bishop Tutu. One of the particular satisfactions of the novel is the often tender justice meeted out for character's sins. Very few characters who actually appear for any length of time remain villains . Instead, the real resolution of their crimes tends to involve confession. It is possible to read these confessions as a wise commentary on the humanizing effect of clear self-knowledge. A reversal of suffering typically creates the environment in which a character undergoes a copernican revolution regarding their own importance, replacing their own pride and desires with those of someone else. Consider this pattern through four examples: the examples of Mrs. Joe and Miss Havisham; the example of Pip's convict; and the example of Pip.

[...] Why is Pip even out in the graveyard at the beginning of the novel? If he had lived in an affectionate home where his sister truly took the place of mother as Joe successfully took the place of father, then perhaps he wouldn't even have the felt the urge to visit the headstones of his biological parents. The confession of Mrs. Joe occurs on her deathbed. This is how Biddy describes it to Pip after the funeral: She [Mrs. Jo] made signs to me that she wanted him to sit down close to her, and wanted me to put her arms around his neck. [...]


[...] Confessions of self-displacement in Great Expectations One sometimes suspects, while reading Great Expectations, that Dickens could have been good friends with Bishop Tutu. One of the particular satisfactions of the novel is the often tender justice meeted out for character's sins. Very few characters who actually appear for any length of time remain villains[1]. Instead, the real resolution of their crimes tends to involve confession. It is possible to read these confessions as a wise commentary on the humanizing effect of clear self-knowledge. [...]

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