Expectation vs. Reality in Great Expectations

The namesake of the novel Great Expectations as well as a crux of the story is the idea of having certain beliefs of how the future will unfold and being faced with a disappointing outcome. In the book, Pip and other characters are faced with the harsh realities that life is not always what we expect it to be. For example, throughout the story, Pip has fantasies about gaining power: through social mobility, the accumulation of wealth, and by marrying the woman he considers to be beautiful. This links back to an idea I addressed in a previous blog post about Pip’s desire for self-improvement from the outset of the story. As the story continues, Pip starts to seek advancement as a way to fulfill himself. He believes that if he gains these accolades (money, status, “love”), then he will be satisfied with his life and himself. By constructing this set of values, however, he becomes caught in an endless cycle of wanting more to be happy. His life as a gentleman of the time turns out to be no more fulfilling than his life as a blacksmith’s apprentice and he continues to long for what is beyond his reach. In my interpretation of the theme as its presented in the novel, the question of expectations versus reality is rooted not in a comparison of two polar ideas (what we expect to be vs. what is), rather what we intend to gain from our expectations of reality (what is vs. how we reconcile it).

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