The Benefits of Reflection

In both Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, the reader is presented with a reflective, and, at least partially, regretful narrator. Though Pip represents a fictional narrator and Wilde is relaying events that presumably actually happened in his life, a similar feeling is gleaned from engaging with both works. Indeed, though Pip’s life story is told linearly, from the time he first realized where he fit into the world to the moment he is reunited with Estella, it is told as a recollection of the past and is therefore laden with intermittent and personal reflection. On the other hand, Wilde’s De Profundis lacks this seemingly linear structure and instead is completely based on reflection as the entire piece centers around Wilde’s coming to terms with his imprisonment and realization of his past misdeeds.

Pip and Wilde seem to have committed similar misdeeds. They both lived hedonistic and materialistic lifestyles. Pip is enormously in debt by the time he uncovers the truth about his expectations where said debt was accrued by his participation in superfluous clubs and activities, such as the Finches of the Grove. In a similar way, Wilde devoted his life to satiating his each and every fancy. However, as Wilde learns during his time in prison, his desire was a “malady” that led him further from himself.

Furthermore, it is only through reflection that Pip and Wilde are able to recover themselves and follow the path of self-realization. Pip reflects upon the way in which he treated his loved ones, Joe and Biddy, and how he should have cared for them instead of for wealth and high society, entities that only ended up bringing him misery. As a result of this reflection, Pip is presumed to finally be satisfied and at ease with himself and seems to be content with his situation in life. Similarly, Wilde realizes that pleasure is fleeting and finds solace in sorrow, deeming it to be the most human and also the most eternal sensation. This act of reflection allows Wilde to be comforted in the knowledge that his time in prison, though painful, has not been in vain and that he will be the stronger for having undergone this experience and made the aforementioned realization regarding sorrow.

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