Beauty and the Beast and Great Expectations

In Jessica A. Cambell’s “‘Beauty and the Beast’ and Great Expectations,” she compares Dickens’ Great Expectations to the 1740 version of La Belle et la Bête by Mme de Vileneuve. Cambell introduces this connection by explaining that Dickens’ writing frequently includes fairy tale motifs and allusions in his writing. She goes on to specifically explain that there are similarities in Beauty and the Beast due to the story’s “doubles, confused identities, intricate and surprising family relationships, and dream visions, in addition to the overall theme of the transformative properties of love and generosity.” Essentially, both stories share the moral: learn to see beyond appearances, because things and people are often quite different from what they seem. She addresses that there is a similar theme between both of the stories that things often do not turn out as expected. For instance, Pip learns about love through him slowly getting to know more about Magwitch, not through Estella. Additionally, she compares Magwitch to be the “beast” of the story, who Pip was initially afraid of, yet he ended up being his benefactor. She compares Pip to be the “beauty” and in this case it is the beauty, Pip, who is under a spell that he needs to be released from in order to transform into his true self. In both “Beauty and the Beast” and Great Expectations, characters frequently turn out to be something other than what they seem. One important lesson is that the change is not the person’s actual identity, but rather the perception people have of them. Much like the peoples perception of the Beast changes, so do Pip’s views on people. A symbol of change is the Beast’s castle, and Satis house. When Beauty enters the castle, it is supposed to alter her, but instead all inside are altered. While attempting to teach Miss Havisham sympathy, Pip alters the Satis house, and although he does not win over Estella, he has Miss. Havisham begging for forgiveness which is as dramatic as the physical transformation of the Beast. Unfortunately, it takes Pip most of the novel to learn that experiences shape a person, and even when people seem to be on different ends of the spectrum they are still connected, much like different classes living together in the same society. Learning to see more clearly does not simply mean replacing the old way of seeing with a new one; it means learning the lesson that your views are always subject to change. Seeing beyond appearances is key, because people and things are often not what they seem. Unlike Beauty and the Beast, this realization comes too late for the characters in Great Expectations. Miss Havisham learns sympathy too late to correct the pain she has inflicted on her children, and Pip sees the beauty in his Beast too late to save his life. The moral of both stories is that not all that exists is easily seen, and things are never as they seem.

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