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Hancock 1 Thomas Hancock Ms.

Gardner English 2 3 March 2014 Paradoxical Light Society has undergone a cultural shift in which the definition of gentleman has been warped, and people need to find their own idea of what being a gentleman entails. Pip, the protagonist of Charles Dickenss coming of age novel Great Expectations, finds himself undergoing a similar process of transformation as malignant influences threaten to corrupt his great expectations of wealth and sophistication. He, throughout the novel, is confronted with the lights of home and companionship and the lights that appear to guide him toward his dreamor carry him down a path of sorrow and solitude.1 Dickenss paradoxical use of light in the novel, through Joes forge and the light in Miss Havishams house, mirrors Pips confusion as he searches for what it means to be a gentleman As if to foreshadow his future dilemma, the novel begins with Pip surrounded by light which speaks to him of home, comfort, and stability. At this stage of his growth, he is a blank slate, ready to be cast according to the whims of his sister and her kind husband, Joe. It is his sisters intention for him to become an apprentice in Joes blacksmithery, and Pip welcomes this fatein fact, he sees it as a glowing road to manhood and independence (Dickens 82), illuminated by the light of Joes forge. Here, the iron rigidity of Pips future is reflected by the forge, which stands for security and home: all that Pip knows, and a life similar to Joes, a life of independence (82).2 Further on in the novel, Joes forge becomes a representation of Pips childhood friend Biddy, the novels shining example of a light-hearted, caring, and gentlemanly person. Ultimately, the light of Joes forge proves to be the defining guidance for Pip, and leads

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Hancock 2 him to a peaceful reconciliation with Estella and Joe. In order to lay the foundation for the novel, Dickens sends Pip into the furnace of Miss Havishams estate: Satis House.3 Inside Satis House, Pips imagination and dreams are enlivened by the trappings of luxury and the elite social class. The houses windows are shut however, and although Miss Havishams residence is well lighted with wax candles (43), there is no glimpse of daylight. . . to be seen in it (43). In this situation the light is cold and unnatural, giving a false luster to all of the objects in the room. Within Pip this corruption generates a falsified idea of what being a gentleman means, and the prestige it brings a person. Also within the house is Estella, the impious-yet-infatuating woman who wins Pips heart. Estella means star, and like a star, she shines bright and beautiful (187) in Pips eyes. But she is a false shine, for she has been bred to freeze the hearts of men that she meets by her surrogate mother, Miss Havisham. The negative connotations of light within Satis House are in stark contrast with more positive forms found earlier in the novel. Pips internal resolution occurs within the denouement of the novel, at the same time as the perplexity of light is settled.4 Pip, wandering through the dismantled ruins of Satis House, finds Estella, doing the same. Here the light is softer and kinder; Satis Houses malignant nature has ceased to exist, and is replaced by a more tempered, pure light. The same is true of Estella; while earlier in the novel she had a heart cold as steel and was trained to break the hearts of men around her, now she is more like Biddy: caring, kind, attentive, and a little more common. Here, under the stars . . . shining beyond the mist . . . and the moon (378), Pip finally understands that being a gentleman involves more than just having wealth and social prestige, but is based on actions and morals, not possessions. The confusion of the lights resolution perfectly mirrors the conclusion of Pips confusion. Through Joes forge and Satis House, Dickens creates a paradox which reflects Pips

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Hancock 3 own internal struggle to find a definition of what it means to be a gentleman. The feelings of home and stability contrast with the allure of wealth and prestige to help confuse Pips great expectations, but realign again in the conclusion so that they are resolved together. Throughout the novel, the paradox of the elite social class corrupts Pips inner light, but eventually he finds his true internal brightness, and with it, vanquishes his corruption. With this, Dickens brings Great Expectations to a close.