Imprisonment in Great Expectations

Imprisonment is a lack of any kind of freedom. In Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations there are many examples of imprisonment. Dickens created the characters Estella, Herbert, and Molly with a lack of freedom. These three characters were imprisoned because they could not make their own choices.

Estella had very little freedom. Miss Havisham controlled every aspect of her life. She was forced to carry out Miss Havisham’s revenge on men, and she tortured Pip only because she had been raised and told to do so. The first time they met, Miss Havisham told her to break Pip’s heart and Estella relentlessly picked on him. She made Pip cry because he felt so bad about being common, and he devoted his life to becoming a gentleman because of her influence. Miss Havisham made Estella go to a distant boarding school. She probably did this just so that Pip couldn’t see her. As soon as she got back, Miss Havisham forced her to live with Mrs. Brandley, a complete stranger, so that she would become acquainted with other people. Pip had to escort Estella most of the time when she traveled. She had to give her purse to Pip and he had to do everything that Miss Havisham said to do. Estella could make very few choices for herself because she was Miss Havisham’s puppet.

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Herbert was a character who was imprisoned. The counting house was a prison for him. He worked there for next to nothing and he was in debt most of the time. By working at the counting house, he couldn’t fulfill his dream of having his own shipping company. Because of his lack of financial freedom, he could not start his own business no matter how much he saved. Herbert was imprisoned by his easy nature and pride. Pip’s lavish habits led Herbert into debt. Because Pip lived with him, he spent money on things that he knew he could not afford. This unnecessary spending drove Herbert further into debt. Pip would have gladly taken on some of the extra expenses caused by his living there, but he knew that Herbert was too proud which was why he bought Herbert’s partnership secretly. Herbert did not get to choose his own bride. It was arranged that he and his siblings, except the baby, were to be married. Herbert was engaged to Clara and it didn’t matter if he wanted to marry her or not. Herbert was imprisoned by his finances, pride, and arranged marriage.

Molly had no freedom. Her child was taken by Mr. Jaggers as payment for her defense in the trial. She did not have much choice because if she didn’t give Estella to Jaggers she would be convicted. That meant that worse things could happen to Estella and she would go to jail. Jaggers said ” he had often seen children solemnly tried at a criminal bar, where they were held up to be seen; put the case that he habitually knew of their being imprisoned, whipped, transported, neglected, and cast out here was one pretty little child out of the whole heap that could be saved’ ” (879). After the trial was over she began working at his house. She had to be his maid and was treated like a slave. Whenever Molly was in the same room as he was she would stare at him the whole time. She was frightened of Jaggers and spoke very softly most of the time. He constantly threatened to reveal her secret by making her show her wrists to people. He was blackmailing her by doing this. Molly was imprisoned by Mr. Jaggers.

Estella, Molly, and Herbert were all imprisoned because there were many times that they were not allowed to make their own choices. They did not have the freedom most people have. Everyone should have the freedom to do as they choose. Because they could not do as they wished, these characters often elicited sympathy from the reader. Dickens used sympathy many times and in many different ways in the novel Great Expectations.

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