Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Endings Essay Sample

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Charles Dickens wrote two different endings to his work Great Expectations. However, which ending is more appropriate depends on the way the audience views the tone and purpose of the novel. There are many differences between the original and revised endings, and these differences lead the reader to two distinct conclusions from the novel. However, with the creation of these two endings, a question arises: which ending is more appropriate for the novel? Even though the revised ending is better written, the original ending is more appropriate.

There are many differences between the two endings of Great Expectations. Some of these differences are basic differences that Dickens makes clear. The original ending has eight years between Pip seeing Joe and Biddy, proceeded by another two years before Pip and Estella meet, thus having a ten year time period. However, in the revised ending, it is eleven years before Pip sees Joe and Biddy, and when he goes to Satis House and finds Estella. Another basic difference in the endings is location. Throughout Great Expectations location has been a big part of what is going on with Pip and how he views himself and life. In the original ending, Pip sees Estella randomly while he is in London. Pip lives with Clara and Herbert in Cairo and earns himself am honest living, and is finally content with his life. In the revised ending, Pip is visiting with Joe and Biddy. He decides that, for closure, he needs to visit Satis House one last time to say goodbye to that part of his life, and to say goodbye to Estella. However, while he is there, he runs into Estella.

In both endings Estella is and always will be Pip’s “poor dream,” even though he has finally realized (in both endings) that they are not meant to be. Also in each of the two endings, he discusses with Biddy how “that poor dream, as I once used to call it, has call gone by Biddy, all gone by!” (482, 508). A few lines after this conversation with Biddy, another difference between the two endings occur. Pip informs the audience of what has become of Estella and the two endings have different accounts occur. In both of these stories, he starts off with, “I had heard of her leading a most unhappy life, and as being separated from her husband who had used her with great cruelty, and who had become quite renowned as a compound of pride, brutality, and meanness” (482, 508).

Also, Pip reveals that Drummle died from an accident with a horse that he also treated badly. This is where Estella’s life changes, so-to-speak. In the original ending Estella is remarried to a Shropshire doctor who had actually intervened in Drummle’s ill treatment of Estella while working for Drummle. This man was not rich (showing that Estella had somewhat changed), yet they still lived off of “her own personal fortune” (508) that she received when Miss Havisham died. In the revised ending, Pip tells the reader that “This release had befallen her some two years before; for anything I knew, she was married again” (482). He does not know any new information regarding Estella, including her marital information.

The original ending is much shorter than the revised ending. This is because the original ending has a different purpose than the revised ending does. The original ending keeps up with one of the main purposes throughout the novel, that self-improvement comes with the realizations that money and a rich lifestyle is not how to live a happy life. Pip does not get rewarded with Estella because she encompasses (in the original ending) those characteristics that separated her side of town from Joe’s side of town. In the original ending, Estella says she is greatly changed but the details prove otherwise.

She is in London with a servant, riding in a carriage. Also, like the queen she believes herself to be when Pip first meets her, she asks Pip to “lift up that pretty child and let me kiss it” (509). This is similar to when Estella allows Pip to kiss her on the check (93). Overall, although Estella says she has changed, the only hint that Pip gives us to her changes is that he says her voice and touch “gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham’s teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be” (509). The revised ending has a similar quotation, in which Estella says that “suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be” (484). Although these are similar quotations, the original ending is very different from the revised ending, which is much longer and provides more details.

The revised ending gives the reader more insights into Estella’s changes. Once Pip realizes that he sees Estella, he describes her current physical appearance which is the reader’s first insight to Estella’s changes. Pip describes how “the freshness of her beauty was gone…what I had never seen before, was the saddened softened light of those once proud eyes; what I had never felt before, was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand” (483). This description shows the audience that Estella has changed before she says it, proving to be more powerful and believable than the original ending had provided. In the passage the conversation between Pip and Estella also proves that Estella has changed. During their conversation, Estella discusses what has caused her to change. She remembered when Pip said to her:

‘God bless you, God forgive you!’ And if you could say that to me then, you will not hesitate to say that to me now-now, when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. Be as considerate and good to me as you were, and tell me we are friends. (484)

In this part of the conversation between Pip and Estella, she brings back her memories and explains to Pip that she has realized what her cold heart did to Pip, and that she does feel remorse for what she did was a child. She hopes that he still forgives her for what has happened, and this is a large part of her change. She is feeling sorrow and guilt for what has happened, feelings that she would not have felt if she did not live a hard life with Drummle.

The two endings also lead the reader to two different conclusions at the end. The original ending leads the readers to believe that Pip and Estella will never see one another again, that he has reached his own personal closure from Estella, and that she is well and no longer cold-hearted, for her suffering has “given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be” (509). However, the revised ending leads to other conclusions. Pip goes to the Satis House to get closure from Estella and to say goodbye, however, they end up leaving together, as a happy ending would be. The reader is open to all possibilities that Pip and Estella could end in a romantic relationship and get married, or they just go on being friends. Either way, Pip still does not get the closure he was looking for. Both Pip and Estella are changed and they are brought together like he believes they are supposed to be. The revised ending finalizes with, “I saw the shadow of no parting from her” (484) which is open to the reader’s interpretation.

These differences, among others, lead to the question as to which ending is a better fit for the entire novel. The writing style of the revised ending is much more similar to that of the rest of the novel. It is much more detailed and continues the repetition that Dickens uses throughout the entire novel. The imagery of the mist is present, unlike in the original ending. The revised describes how “a cold shivery mist had veiled the afternoon” (482) and “the evening mists were rising now” (484); when Pip first left the forge, “the mists had all solemnly risen” (160). The mist seems to rise whenever Pip moves into a different part of his life.

First when he left the forge to become a gentleman, and again when he talks to Estella and finally puts a closure on what he has been trying to do all his life: be with Estella. Also the revised ending is more romantic and is more appealing to audiences. Pip and Estella meet again at the same place they first met and end up together, which is a happy ending. This connection of the past and present is a clich� ending which appeals to audiences, then and now, since Pip and Estella have both been through so much that they are no longer the same people as when they met as children. They are on the same level and deserve to be together and happy, for dealing with such suffering throughout their lives. Pip views Estella as an equal, and therefore, it is okay for them to be together since he no longer views her as an untouchable object.

However, even though the revised ending is written more similar to the rest of the novel, I believe that the original is much more appropriate for the novel. The whole premise of the book is that Pip and Estella cannot be together. He is not happy with her (although he is more unhappy without her), and she is cruel to him. On page 250 Herbert Pocket and Pip have a conversation about Estella, in which Herbert bluntly tells Pip to, “Think of her bringing-up, and think of Miss Havisham. Think of what she is herself…This may lead to miserable things”, to which Pip replays that he knows it, “but I can’t help it” (250) and it is “impossible” for himself to detach himself from Estella.

He believes that they are meant to be until he finds out that Miss Havisham is not setting them up to be together, since they are not meant to be together. Estella is brought up to not have a heart, and is it possible to believe that she has changed enough for her and Pip to finally be together? No, because until Pip sees her it is shown that he is mature enough to realize that his “poor dream” will never come true. The original ending shows Estella as slightly changed, but not changed enough to seem unrealistic (which is how the revised ending portrays her). With Miss Havisham’s teachings, it would be expected that Estella would move from one man to another after her husband has died, which is what happens with the original ending. Soon after Drummle dies from a horse accident, Estella moves on and remarries. Although this man is not rich, Estella does need male companionship and have someone in love with her at all times. She has “softened” but is overall the same lady with the same ideas of superiority.

Also, the original ending has the same tone as the rest of the novel. The entire book is serious and unhappy for Pip, with each good thing happening to him revealed as something that he would rather change. Also, throughout the entire novel, Pip is supposed to be shown that money and the lifestyle of Satis House is not what is best for him. He should not end up with the woman that encompasses all of the characteristics of that side of the road, and the idea of a happy ending after such a serious and unhappy story seems absurd. The original ending does give the audience the closure that they need; Estella does not fully change as a character, is well in her life, and Pip gets his closure about Estella.

The two endings of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens differ greatly in length, location, and substance. Depending on what the reader believes is the purpose of the novel, each reader will have a different opinion on which ending is the most appropriate. However, the original ending fits the rest of the novel better, as it continues with the lessons and ideas that Dickens portrays throughout the entirety of the novel, compared to the revised ending which is just a clichd, romantic, and happy ending.

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