In the novel Great Expectations, written in 1860 by Charles Dickens, there is an underlying theme of disillusionment, but it is not a melancholy book. The main character, named Pip, has many “great expectations” in his life, but over the course of time these illusions are slowly shattered. This would make one think that this narrative would be a tale of sadness and misery, it is not glum at all because of the friendships, love, and humor that Pip experience.
Throughout the book many friendships become evident between Pip and other people. Pip is such a loyal friend of Herbert’s that he cares more about Herbert’s finances than he does about his own, and Pip even goes to Mrs. Havisham to get money for Herbert. Pip is devoted to Herbert, and he will go to great lengths for Herbert’s well being. The reader is drawn into the power of this friendship more than any other negative thing happening. In addition, Wemmick helped Pip with Provis’ escape, and by doing this Wemmick put himself in danger of being caught. Wemmick does this selfless act for his friendship with Pip. The bond of these two men over powers common sense, because they knowingly put themselves into danger. These lasting companionships are very far from any sort of disconsolation.
Another reason that this is not a sorrow filled story is an irrefutable love theme. Pip becomes extremely ill at one point, and Joe stops with his own endeavors and travels to Pip just to take care of him. Joe obviously has a fatherly love towards Pip, and that love is a very admirable thing. Throughout the story this father son love can be felt. Pip’s love for Estella is very apparent when Estella leaves Pip, because he had just confessed his passion for her. Pip’s love is actually stronger than his sadness, because he
accepts the loss and moves on. Here Pip’s expectations are destroyed, and yet the reader does not feel sad because of the love. The amounts of love it this book is enough to keep grief out of the reader’s mind.
Humor is another element used in this novel to diminish any melancholy themes. Wemmick’s father, who lived in a castle, had many strange rituals, like having dolls made that resembled people who came there often, and used those for his doorbell system. The reader cannot help laughing at this because it is so absurd. This crazy old man is entered in to the story to lighten the mood a bit when the plot becomes too serious. Another humorous incident is when Pip finds out that Provis, the convict that he had been so afraid of in the past, is actually his benefactor. It is funny that this man that created fear in Pip was also the man giving him a new life. This “twist of fate” gives the story a little humor in a sober situation. The humor entered into the book is just sufficient to take away any dolor felt by the reader.
Pip’s many disappointments in life only add to his life history. His frustrated goals are never very sad, but they do show him the vicissitudes of life. Through the use of friendship, love, and humor, which is interjected just when the mood started to shift, the author stays away from a lugubrious type of a story. Great Expectations was a very well written novel because of these techniques that were applied.