“I am what you have made me”: Estella, A Fascinating Spectacle

This is a paper I wrote a few years ago for my Victorian Lit class while working on my MA. I got an A on it along with more praise than I could have expected, so I set it aside in the hopes of developing it further. Since I haven’t done anything with it yet, and at this point probably won’t, I might as well post it here. (This is the second to final draft – the only thing it’s missing is proper MLA formatting in various places).

Great Expectations has two endings, and both are disturbingly incongruent with the main narrative – Pip’s life-long obsession with Estella, and the suffering he has faced due to her, cannot be neatly summed up in one brief chapter regardless of how it is written, unless it is read differently.

Once a novel has been read the reader usually regards the entire work through the lens of the ending, attempting to conceptualize all of the events in terms of the final outcome, and piecing them together in such ways as to shape the path for what the reader knows will happen. Frank Kermode, in his work, The Sense of an Ending, argues that a novel’s ending is the author’s endeavor to construct order from chaos by neatly summing up the events of a work which from a realistic point of view may be implausible at best. To extrapolate this idea and apply it to Great Expectations in conjunction with the two endings is to see an exemplary model of Kermode’s argument.

The first ending that Dickens originally intended is bittersweet, filled with remorse, but also understanding. After Pip devotes a lifetime to Estella only to be rewarded with unrequited love, he understands his desire of ever gaining her acceptance as futile, and finally lets go. Yet it is never clearly outlined what prompts this unbelievably sudden change, and only their final meeting is describe. They encounter each other after several years have passed, but unlike previous meetings Pip is not enamored by her in the same ways:

“I am greatly changed, I know; but I thought you would like to shake hands with Estella, too, Pip. Lift up that pretty child and let me kiss it!” (She supposed the child, I think, to be my child.) I was very glad afterwards to have had the interview; for, in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham’s teachings, and had given her a heart to understand why my heart used to be.

He is privy to the suffering she has endured, but does not press to offer her solace of any kind. When they meet he is seen with Joe and Biddy’s child – Estella assumes it is Pip’s son and he does not correct her, no longer allowing her into his inner sphere. As they meet in Piccadilly Square after many years of separation it seems fitting that the tone should be bittersweet, and in following with the events of the novel it makes sense that the ending should be as bleak as the previous fifty-eight chapters. Regardless of what life had taught Estella about herself and her relationship with others it is out of character for her to behave affectionately, even at this point. Thus her cold demeanor, as she lady-like shakes Pip’s hand through the carriage window is what the audience expects because this is the Estella which has been forged thus far. But this is not the ending Dickens gives us.

Dickens altered the ending fairly quickly under the advice from his friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton. There is little evidence as to what Lytton said since the conversation was most likely verbal, but in subsequent letters Dickens explains that Lytton provided “such good reasons” as to compel him to make the changes without further hesitation.

The second ending is the one everyone is familiar with, and almost all of the editions of the novel currently in circulation will use it. Some of the more scholastically oriented versions will make a note about the previous ending, but that is as far as that goes. While it may not be general public knowledge, the existence of the initial ending is well known, and the fact that it is not circulated to the public (perhaps an editorial decision), or even thoroughly discussed outside of scholarly journals, is a testament to its inadequacies to properly wrap up the novel, despite that at first reading it appears to be the better suited of the two.

The second ending is definitely too tidy, to the point that even scholars that favor this ending will cringe a bit when discussing it. However, the main argument in its favor, aside from the idea that it will hold popularity (which it did) and earn income, is that it allows for the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation to continue. As Pip and Estella meet again in the garden of Satis House (unlike bustling Piccadilly Square in the first ending), the same garden where their story began, they approach each other changed by experience. It is often argued that as Estella and Pip walk out of the garden holding hands they are no longer living within the realms of passionate youth filled with exuberance, but rather subdued mutual respect and understanding. Yes, this is absolutely true, and that is in fact how they exit the garden, but why?

It must be noted that the second ending is not as clear cut as some make it out to be. While it may seem trite and even contrived, offering the audience something akin to a sappy happy ending, the wording in the last sentence is rather ambiguous, not fully offering any sense of finality:

I took her hand in mind, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.

The implication is that they live happily ever after, together, and many scholars, including Christopher Ricks, T.W. Hill, and G.W. Kennedy write about Pip’s and Estella’s marriage as a fait accompli. However, nowhere in this passage, or chapter, is this explicit. Thus this ending, while seemingly constructed to placate the audience, still holds many of the same sentiments as the first ending.

Further, the first edition of the second ending had two extra words attached to the last line, reading “I saw no shadow of another parting from her but one” (italics added for emphasis, Meckier 36). Those two words carry several meanings. First, they could refer to eventual death, and thus echo traditional wedding vows which would give impetus to the marriage argument. However, there could be a few other ways to parse these words, including an implication of Pip’s return to Egypt, the place where he had been conducting work for the last decade.

Regardless of which is used, the ending is imperative to show the effect this version of Estella that Pip has created has on him. Once the final chapter is read, everything previous becomes cast through the knowledge gained in the ending. Estella’s character can either be seen as the cold-hearted, calculating enchantress who refuses to return affection to the bitter end, and will always remain aloof and just out of Pip’s grasp, or she may be regarded as the result of her upbringing, but a dynamic character who grows within the novel, learns from experience, and is willing to be redeemed by Pip through forgiveness and acceptance of love. Within the first ending, the Petrarchan reading casts Estella as ever unattainable. She is the Panoptic force, the surveillance mechanism, under which Pip lives, creating himself in the image of her equal. However, in disallowing her to affect him, he withholds his inner self from her and negates her power over him. Even as she remains ever unattainable, he no longer seems to want to attain her.  Yet, in the second ending it is not Estella who is changed, but rather, as shall be seen, Pip’s vision of her.

Pip, too, can be looked at from two different perspectives. In light of the first ending, he has matured and come to understand his folly in loving Estella. As he meets her in Piccadilly Square he approaches her with the same aloofness she accorded him throughout his life. As far as Estella is concerned, he has no great expectations. The second ending also allows him a degree of maturity, but also consolation. He does not approach Estella with aloofness, but rather with subdued love. He accepts her flaws, her nature, character, and essentially her. He sees her for what she is, not what he needs her to be. He looks at her in terms of her “success” and “failure” as she describes them to him, as opposed to how he interprets them. While marriage may not be at the forefront of the passage, there is a sense of unity.

Fifty-one chapters earlier Pip and Estella meet. As he stands outside Satis House with Pumblechook, he is summoned inside and he enters. Estella locks the door behind him and leads him down several winding, dark corridors to another door. This time he is not led, but told to knock. He does, is bid to enter, and continues into Miss Havisham’s quarters. Basically he is asked inside, ventures through the doorway, and continues of his own volition without prompting – despite being just a boy he acquiesces to his fate, performing the necessary motions to set up the game which will arguably dictate the rest of his life.

Great Expectations employs a most strange (yet not altogether unfamiliar) form of first person narration: even though Pip, the main character, narrates the novel, he does so from the vantage point of an adult, looking back upon his youth. Thus there is a clear distinction between Pip, the character, and, for the sake of simplification, the wiser and older Pip. Yet they are still the same person. It must be noted that despite Pip’s attempt to retell the story as he had known it at the time there is a shadow of the wiser and older Pip always cast upon the narrative. Young Pip’s life story as it is presented to the reader is mediated through a retrospective lens. As he recreates himself from memory, so does he recreate all those who once surrounded him, most importantly Estella. The process of creation and recreation from memory, the Platonic concept of Anemnesis, is a prevalent theme within character formulation throughout the novel, especially between Estella and Pip, addressing two very important questions: is Great Expectations a Bildungsroman that traces Pip’s progress as he is formed by the memory of Estella as she creates him, or is the image of Estella, as recollected by Pip, simultaneously constructed by him? In negotiating these ideas the audience emerges with a third question that is not immediately apparent, but equally important: how does the audience play a role in constructing Estella and her relationship with Pip? And lastly, what is the relationship between Estella and Pip?

It is not a secret that Pip has guilt issues. Scholars have been addressing his psychological scarring for decades. He is riddled with guilt for the few misdemeanors he has committed, and plagued by thoughts of complacence to acts which he had nothing to do with, practically feeling guilt vicariously.

The result of his inner guilt relies on his relationship with Estella as a form of purging and penitence, while Estella’s emotional upheaval, including Miss Havisham’s indoctrination, uses the relationship as a means of release. In other words, he wants to be punished, and she wants to be the executor.

Sadomasochism, when performed properly relies on a strict set of rules. First, both parties need to consent, and following, boundaries must be delineated. While the sadist is able to inflict unlimited pain, in a co-dependant sadomasochist relationship the sadist can only inflict as much pain as the masochist can take, otherwise the entire experience goes awry. [A point that can be explained through Pip’s travels to Egypt for a decade that implies the game went astray for some time, only to be set back on track upon his return.]

The term “sadomasochism” has a physical connotation to it, brining about imagery of explicitly sexual play, and while this is certainly one of its most notorious uses, it also has psychological implications, and Great Expectations relies on the psychological aspect of the word to trace an elongated performance which starts in chapter eight and guides the narrative to chapter fifty-nine, at which point the game is over and serves as the explanation for the abrupt “happy-ending” that so many people have a problem with accepting – once the play-acting is over, both Pip and Estella are free to relinquish their respective roles and simply continue with their lives. It is the equivalent of tying someone up, whipping them, and then untying them to cuddle afterwards while acting as if nothing just happened. In Pip and Estella’s case the tying up part lasts about twenty five years, from the moment Pip enters Satis House, until he returns to it for the last time, demarcating the end of the game when Estella bids him to be “considerate and good” and tell her they “are friends,” to which he responds “we are friends.”

While this accounts for the ending, it is important to note how their relationship functions for the entirety of the plot, or how sadomasochism fulfills either of their desires. A key to understanding Estela, if such an endeavor is even possible, is through her own introspective commentary. In a long drawn out conversation with Miss Havisham in which she reproaches her upbringing she twice asserts her making:

“Do you reproach me for being cold? You?” [Estella]
“Are you not?” was the fierce retort. [Miss Havisham]
“You should know,” said Estella. “I am what you have made me. Take all the praise, take all the blame; take all the success, take all the failure; in short, take me.”

She then later mirrors these same sentiments in her conclusion to this conversation:

“So,” said Estella, “I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”

As Estella concedes her making, it must be noted that she is made – she is not her own person and has had little to no control in the trajectory her life has taken. Pip is her plaything finally arrived to give her an outlet for asserting control, and further for taking out her frustration at her world, namely Miss Havisham, which has treated her as nothing more than a puppet, constantly bidding her actions.

Yet the entire dynamic between Estella and Miss Havisham is recreated from memory by Pip. Sarah Gates, in her work “Intertextual Estella: Great Expectations, Gender and Literary Tradition,” compares Pip with Victor Frankenstein. Much like the monster who torments Victor “Estella is the other creature to whom Pip ‘passes his days in bondage and slavery’ and who ‘haunts his existence,’ made as she is out of his first childish impression of feminine beauty, self possession, scorn and especially superior social class.” At one point Estella explains to Pip, in regards to love, “we have no choice, you and I, but to obey our instructions. We are not free to follow our own devices.” The implication is that their game is orchestrated by Miss Havisham, and while they must operate within these constraints, Miss Havisham also understands that she must create the game in accordance to different rules. She allows Estella control over Pip, but guides her inexperienced hands so as to not push him too far. If he breaks, the game is over.

According to Jon Reed in “Astrophil and Estella: A Defense of Poesy,” Pip and Estella’s relationship, closely mirroring Astrophil and Stella’s, operates within the construction and confines of a Petrarchan sonnet. This particular sonnet form is exceedingly restrictive not only in its physical format, but in its content as well. Although the form is of little consequence, as it does not translate into the novel format, the content argument, however, applies twofold. First, within the Petrarchan sonnet the lover must continuously pine for a woman he cannot, and will not have, and in the process elevates the woman onto an imaginary pedestal. In this sense, Pip operates as the ideal Petrarchan lover, pursuing Estella “against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be” (Chapter 29). Secondly, in the process of pursuing the unattainable woman, the Petrarchan lover also becomes elevated to a higher spiritual plain as the love is considered pure, untainted by the physical or the erotic. Even when the focus is upon the physical beauty of the woman, by virtue of her unattainability the love is for a higher order of beauty, or the unadulterated idea of beauty which the woman represents. In converting Estalla to a Laura-like figure she maintains her role within the imaginary and ties in with the psychological aspect of her existence as constructed by Pip.

Pip’s quest for advancement has thus far stemmed from his adulation of Estella, function along the lines of personal elevation congruent with the progress of the Petrarchan lover. While Pip may not necessarily knowingly subscribe to chastity in his pursuit of Estella, arguably the Petrarchan lover does not willingly relinquish physical love, but rather acquiesces to forgo it in light of the impossibility of his love. The main difference lies in foreknowledge: the Petrarchan lover explores his love fully knowing it will remain unrequited, while Pip, despite having glimpses of truth, never gives up hope. Pip’s journey towards betterment is constantly shrouded in the hope of achieving a union with Estella, and in the end, he achieves this, even if only in ambiguous terms.

When Estella discusses the “success” and “failure” of her making, these same words can be ascribed to Pip, as arguably neither of these attributes are solely his own. Prior to his first visit at Satis House he was only marginally aware of his status in life. Surely he was not oblivious to his surroundings, but he had never been made to feel the sting of class and educational discrepancies. Estella’s presence brings an awareness to the forefront of his mind that Pip latches on to as a guiding post for his own betterment laced with great expectations. Estella’s cruelty creates Pip’s drive, which is best demonstrated in a conversation between the two in which Pip clearly attaches greater significance to minuscule events:

I reminded her where she had come out of the house and given me my meat and drink, and she said “I don’t remember.” “Not remember that you made me cry?” said I. “No,” she said and shook her head and looked about her. 

While it is conceivable that she feigns forgetfulness to further injure Pip, a more reasonable explanation is his own reluctance to let go of these brief moments of pain as they have shaped his focus. For Estella, the act of bringing refreshments out for workers or guests is not uncommon, nor of any particular importance, and the day in question resembles many others. For Pip, however, that fateful day began a process of transformation to last a lifetime.

Pip needs Estella’s cruelty to shape and improve himself. He needs her harshness as an indelible delineator of his position. His inability to let go of the moments of pain has shaped his focus, using her cruelty to mold himself. According to Natalie Rose, Pip absolutely needs to concentrate on the agonizing bits, as this type of figurative flogging “produces equable, firm, self, contained, self assured men; it gives definition to the imperial Englishman… converting savage boyhood into civilized manliness.” Further, “flogging enacts the Victorian understanding of freedom of will achieved through the dutiful ‘subordination of self to some higher purpose,’ whether social or religious.” Estella is the social higher purpose to which Pip must adhere, and his subordination to her entwines obedience with free will, or agency. He is able to achieve all that he does through abandoning himself to the merciless image of Estella as she adapts for the game.

For Pip, Estella cannot represent anything but unadulterated malice. Even when describing her beauty, sophistication, or grace the image created is that of a thorny rose. “The beating of adults works to reinforce the limits of the self” (Rose) which cannot be transcended until fully known. Estella’s cruelty towards Pip serves as a disciplining force, pushing him towards betterment, and simultaneously tormenting him just enough to keep him fascinated and intrigued. Her changing demeanor gives him hope, but she never quite acquiesces to his desires, only feeds them subtly. She defines his boundaries by lying just outside of them. Her belittling, teasing and other acts of spitefulness, whether real or perceived, aid Pip by providing an obstacle to overcome. Moreover, the obstacle is not stagnant because regardless of how hard Pip works at bettering himself, Estella moves further away, always just outside his grasp, a distance which she can only maintain if she remains aloof and even incendiary. Here it becomes questionable whether Estella has any real agency, or if Pip conceives her malice towards him as a means for self-inflicted impetus.

Pip needs Estella’s harshness to preside over him. In this sense she can be regarded as a form of invisible, yet highly visible discipline with whom Pip must contend, almost as a Panoptic figure. “Visibility is a trap” states Michel Foucault in his work Discipline and Punish. Pip’s internalization of who he believes Estella to be, or the part of her that truly fascinates him, depicts the internalization of surveillance even when absent. Foucault demonstrates the reasoning behind the brilliance of the Panoptic system devised by Bentham where the “Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/ being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen” Even when Estella is not near, she is not far from his mind. Thus, for Pip, she is ever vigilant. Everything he does he does for both himself, and for her. The ever present threat of disapproval disciplines Pip’s actions even when Estella is far removed. During the years she was studying abroad and Pip has no knowledge if he is to ever see her again, he does not falter in his progress towards betterment. Those years precisely best evince that it is not Estella, but the Pip-created concept of her, which acts as the mechanism for shaping Pip as she becomes removed from the physical to reside solely within memory and imagination.

Gates points to a phenomenon known as the “Pirrip pattern” (Gates 390) in which Estella is constantly critiqued in terms of Pip. She contends that there is far more to Estella than her relationship with Pip, and while Gates makes an extremely convincing and well documented argument, it is increasingly difficult to view Estella outside of how she is cast by the narrator, who happens to be Pip. While this seems an extreme oversimplification of the matter, such an assertion relies on basic common sense. Granted there are several instances in which the reader is offered glimpses of Estella in an almost Pip-disassociated sense, it cannot be ignored that as the narrator, every character, every account, and every conversation, even when quoted, is mediated through his memory and perception. Therefore Estella exists at the very center of the Pirrip pattern, and consequently must be read in regards to the effect she has on Pip, namely as his inspiration.

However, this is not to mean that Pip knowingly fabricates components of Estella in order to deceive the reader, as this is most likely not the case. When someone relates a story concerning a person they dislike, then it can only be assumed that due to their perception of the person the narrative will be heavily skewed, and the person in question will more than likely not be cast in the best light. Similarly, when a person narrates an account of a person they admire or love, the story will likely be skewed in the opposite direction. However, this does not necessarily mean the narrator is lying since they are not knowingly telling an untruth. If the narrator is inaccurately recreating the story from their own perceived faulty memories, then while not a lie, they may instead create an inadvertent fabrication. Therefore, if Pip is in fact focusing on Estella’s negative qualities above others, it is only because that is how he genuinely sees her, and she becomes thus altered by his biased gaze. This is best understood when considering the events he wishes to portray, forcing the reader to question if Estella is as horrid as he makes her out to be in each of their encounters, of if other more benevolent meetings are left unreported and conveniently forgotten. It is also important to note that since the story is in the first person narrative, the reader is never offered any instances of Estella separate from Pip, and for this reason she is most fascinating as her personal life is cloaked from view. Presumably Pip’s enchantment with her relies on the same logic, as he too must not have access to her inner life, but is only allotted the spectacle of Estella, as she presents herserlf, or as he believes her to be.

Returning to the concept of the game, Pip enters Satis House and proceeds further down the corridors of his own volition, acquiesces to his subservience when he knocks on Miss Havisham’s door, and then agrees to (literally) play a game with Estella, a card game of Miss Havisham’s choosing in which the idea of the power Estella holds over Pip is unmistakeable. Moreover, the power he allows her to hold over him w undeniable.

After Miss Havisham cajoles Estella into playing cards with “a common laboring boy,” Estella begins a very uncommon winning streak against Pip. The game they play, the only game Pip knows, is Beggar-my-neighbor, in which the chance of winning, according to Parkinson, is “never greater than 60 percent.” Pip in his narrative reports never having won this game with Estella in all the years they played. While this is statistically unlikely, it is “symbolic, emphasizing the psychological power she has over Pip.”

The game is dictated entirely by chance, with no actual skills required. For Pip to lose every single time defies chance, luck, statistics, or any other such variation. Either Pip is a complete anomaly, Dickens is attempting to make a point, or Pip is not actually losing each time but only reports in his narrative those instances in which he does, adding to the list of pains Estella inflicts. While Pip may be an anomaly, his card-playing losing streaks are hardly anything Dickens would waste ink on, as in and of themselves they would not add anything to the narrative. According to Parkinson, Dickens makes a point about Victorian economy, where the game represents a system in which the underprivileged (Pip) are constantly beggared by the upper class (Estella). However, what is more interesting is how Estella controls Pip psychologically more so than economically. Returning to the idea that Pip requires Estella’s cruelty, here he experiences it by misrepresenting his losses, and consequently is beaten twice. Much akin to Pip’s focus on other negative memories of his childhood, or his perceptions as such, here he recalls only the times which Estella beat or humiliated him.

There is a dual importance to how these games are narrated. The language used each time they play is taunting, teasing, and cruel. The first time Estella and Pip are made to play cards together, Estella’s condescending remarks will set the tone for subsequent games. If Pip can endure this, then she will continue and take it up a notch each time:

“What do you play, boy?” asked Estella of myself, with the greatest disdain.
“Nothing but beggar my neighbor, miss.”
“He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy!” said Estella with disdain, before our first game was out. “And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!”
I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.

If Pip does not first catch the derogatory use of “boy,” Estella follows by explicitly commenting on his hand and boots, noting their coarseness and lack of finesse; thick boots are not made from soft expensive leather. The inclusion of this passage poses the question of why Pip chooses to recall this incident, and further why he refrains from ever reporting his winnings; he does not report his winnings because doing so would be futile. In the larger game him and Estella are playing he cannot win, he does not want to win, and the success of the game depends on him not winning and on her maintaining control. He has to feel ashamed of himself as a means of alleviating his guilt, and she derives joy from inflicting this pain. He satisfies her need for dominance while she satisfies his desire of punishing his guilt for transgressions, whether real or imagined.

Then, as Pip reflects upon his appearance, here is the pivotal moment in which he becomes acutely self-aware of his status: Estella’s “contempt” becomes “infectious,” or contagious, turning into self contempt, thus marking the beginning his journey towards betterment.

More so, Pip’s lack of a win at cards parallels his inability of social climbing. Estella defines his inescapable boundaries that much like the game of cards are controlled by chance since being born into a certain social class, or inot wealth, or even adopted into it, is dependent upon luck. As Pip retrospectively retells his life story he is aware of his lack of luck. Therefore he never reports his winnings because even as he is narrating his story he knows there will be none.

Arguably Pip does encounter some luck, through his inheritance, and also through his acquaintances who aid him at different stages in his life. Yet his true goal, attaining Estella, and presumably everything she represents, is constantly out of reach. Thus he cannot conceptualize her as anything else than cruel or aloof because any other version would not fit into the narrative. A less harsh Estella would not act as his driving force, or delineate his parameters, which for Pip are not as clear cut as they may seem. While Estella herself may be considered worthy of Pip’s admiration, the parameters she sets are not just around herself, but everything that surrounds her.

In “Meditating on the Low: A Darwinian Reading of Great Expectations,” Goldie Morgentaler takes this argument even further and asserts that Pip sees Estella as the link to the genetic material needed for survival. In one of the most Panoptic scenes in the novel, as Pip imagines her looking through the forge window as he works away, monitoring and surveying, he demarcates Estella’s existence in relationship to himself:

Truly it was impossible to disassociate her presence from all those wretched hankerings after money and gentility that had disturbed my boyhood, – from all those ill-regulated aspirations that had first mademe ashamed of home, and Joe, – from all those visions that had raisedher face in the glowing fire, […] extracted it from the darkness of nightto look in at the wooden window of the forge, and flit away. In a word,it was impossible for me to separate her, in the past or in the present,from the innermost life of my life (Chapter 29).

Here, in his imagination, she “flits away” because, for Pip, she does not belong in the forge. She is of a different breed, genetically different, and her lot is made to survive, is agile, and fleeting (Morgentaler 709). While Pip fixates upon her beauty, this is merely a physical attribute, and the features which have led to her survival, and assumed position as superior to him, are her wealth and status. At this point Pip is unaware of Estella’s true lineage, and sees her solely as a creature evolved from those like Miss Havisham, with money and status being transferred from generation to generation, much like the strong, adaptive genes Darwin outlines.

Until he met Estella, Pip did not have those “wretched hankerings” for socioeconomic status because he did not equate them with the power associated with survival of the fittest. What Pip does not understand, or does not couch in these terms, is the inversion of these same principles. Dickens inverts the principles of evolution, and subsequently heredity, by creating two characters who essentially create themselves. Just as Pip creates himself in the image of what he believes is suitable for the image he has created of Estella, Estella herself is created after a different image, exclusive of heredity (Morgentaler 710) – not only is she adopted, which is brought to light rather early on in the story, but as her roots are later revealed she is adopted from a lower socioeconomic place in society than even Pip, as “the chatelaine of Satis House [is presented] with the offspring of a convicted felon to raise as a grand lady” (Morgentaler 710). Here survival of the fittest does not emerge from genetic evolution or heredity, but a force of its own, and the fittest are not genetically predetermined.

As the novel comes to an end it is no less difficult to understand Estella or Pip. However, a sketch of their relationship can nevertheless exist, and if either cannot be individually identified, their demeanors towards each other are sufficiently elucidated throughout the various chapters of Great Expectations to where an impression of their goals can be gleaned. Even as the finality of the novel is brought to question by the aforementioned last ambiguous line, especially in light of the two words that were omitted, the image of Estella and Pip fading into the sunset of dusk alters the reading of the entire work thus far. Here the reader has the power to conceptualize Estella, much like Pip has been doing throughout the novel, in essence creating an image of Estella that takes into account all of her parts that have been to this point described. The real Estella may not necessarily be congruent with the image Pip has shaped, but considering that Estella does not, and cannot, exist outside of Pip’s representation, these two images never fully diverge. After all despite the pain and suffering both of these characters have endured (either willingly or not), they are now allowed to look past the hurt, learn from it, and move on. Estella can cease inflicting pain as a healing mechanism, much as Pip no longer needs to experience a punishment which has never fit his crimes. Essentially, the anguish the idea of Estella has brought Pip all of these years leads to this point where Estella’s fascinating spectacle comes to an end.


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