Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations Literature Analysis Essay (Movie Review)

August 16, 2022 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 1st, 2020

It is a very well-known fact that by the time they get to the end of their novel, many writers start to have second thoughts about how to conclude it. The history of literature is filled with examples where critics found alternative endings to famous novels. This essay analyzes the two alternative endings for the novel Great Expectations and argues that the initial one was both more aesthetically appealing and philosophically profound.

The events leading up to the final scene in the film and in the novel with the initial ending are the same. In both cases Pip, or Finn as he is called in the film, ends up without his wealth while Estella is divorced and has lead an unhappy life. However, the very ends of the two versions differ sharply. The ending that Dickens initially intended for the novel is rather gloomy.

The novel was initially supposed to end with the following statement by the narrator, “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 teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be” (Dickens and Rosenberg 492). What this sentence reveals is that too much suffering can turn an innocent and loving person into a being incapable of loving in the same way as it can break the arrogance and selfishness of a spoiled one.

The ending in the film is rather different. When the final accidental meeting of Estella and Finn takes place, the dynamics between them is apparently positive. One kind statement by Estella is enough to awaken all the love that Finn has been feeling for years. Estella says, “I think about you … a lot lately” (Great Expectations). After that, when she asks him if he would forgive her for everything, Finn simply replies “Don’t you know me at all” (Great Expectations) thereby signaling that his suffering was completely insignificant when compared to his desire to be with her.

When it comes to giving a value judgment about which of the two endings is better, the answer is bound to come either from the aesthetics of the scene or from the philosophical understanding of the nature of love and emotional suffering of the person who answers the question. It seems that the scene that was initially intended for the novel is much better according to both of these criteria. First, aesthetically, the moment at which Finn answers an apparently difficult question such as whether he is willing to forgive Estella in a statement that is so devoid of emotion and second thoughts, the viewer immediately feels betrayed.

The question that comes to mind is whether the kind of suffering that Finn underwent before was real at all when he could pretend as if it never happened and give it no second thought. Secondly, philosophically, the unofficial ending for the novel gives a much more profound and interesting view about the effects of suffering on human beings. Namely, as it has already been hinted at, it seems to suggest that intense emotional suffering can numb down lively human emotions in a person who is sincere and naïve, but in a spoiled person, it can actually awaken those feelings.

In conclusion, the ending that was initially intended for the novel was better than the one that was finally used and presented in the film. The unofficial ending is aesthetically more appealing as there is no dissonance between what the audience would naturally expect and what actually happens. Also, the unofficial version gives a much more profound statement about the effects of suffering on human beings.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles, and Edgar Rosenberg. Great expectations: authoritative text, backgrounds, contexts, criticism. New York: Norton, 1999. Print.

Great expectations. Dir. Alfonso Cuaron. Perf. Ethan Hawke, Gwynet Paltrow. Art Linson, 1998. Film.

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