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There are many common, familiar cliches about illusion versus truth. "All that glitters is not gold" and "Things are seldom what they seem" are the most universal hackneyed phrases, but they do not cover entirely every aspect of appearance versus reality. In Charles Dickens' novel, Great Expectations, there are several differences between the illusion and the truth. The appearance of certain things is often detrimental to the outcomes of characters when the reality of a situation is revealed. These illusions are revealed through Pip, a lower class boy caught in the struggle of the social classes of 19th century England. Throughout the book, Charles Dickens emphasizes the difference between appearance and reality through Pip's expectations of something better, social status, and settings in the book.
The most important illusion Great Expectations is Pip's confident expectations of a better life. Pip began the book out poor, and was sent for to spend time every week with an upper-middle-class crazy woman and her heartless adopted daughter, Estella. From the moment he met Estella, he was in love with her. Later on in the book, he was provided with financial support from an un-named benefactor that should be used to go to London and become a gentleman. Pip assumed that Ms. Havisham, Estella's adoptive mother, was the benefactress. "My dream was out; my wild fancy was surpassed by sober reality; Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune on a grand scale." (154) This was the reality that Pip had invented for himself, although it was really just a misimpression that his mind had created for himself. Because he thought that Ms. Havisham was his benefactress, Pip anticipated that Estella was meant for him. "I was painting brilliant pictures of her plans for me. She had adopted Estella, and had as good as adopted me, and it could not fail to be her intention to bring us together. She reserved it for me to restore the desolate house, admit the sunshine into the dark rooms, set the clocks a-going and the cold hearths a-blazing, tear down the cobwebs, destroy the vermin, -- in short, do all the shining deeds of the young knight of romance, and marry the princess.... I had made up a rich attractive mystery, of which I was the hero." (252) This is a very obvious illusion of what Pip anticipates for the future. When the reality of this illusion was revealed, Pip realizes the truth behind the appearance of his false dreams. "Miss Havisham's intentions towards me, all a mere dream; Estella not designed for me." (348) Pip realizes that he is not meant to be with Estella, and that the false appearance of his expectations that he put out for himself were completely untrue. Before he left for London, he thought that it was going to be grand, wonderful, and illustrious. However, when he got there he was very under-impressed by the city. "While I was scared by the immensity of London, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it was not rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty". (178) He had expected it to be the world, the beginning of a new future, and the start of a new life. However, it did not meet up with his anticipated expectations. The reality of London was dreary and dismal, unlike the appearance of it from afar.
High social status seems to have a beautiful appearance, but the veracity of the class system is not as good as it would seem. When Pip realizes that his true benefactor is an escaped convict named Abel Magwich, he instantly does not want the money. Magwich's intentions were to turn Pip into a gentleman through the use of his money because of a hard lesson that Magwich learned. Magwich had been a poor man and had worked for a rich man named Compeyson. Compeyson had the appearance of a gentleman. "He set up fur a gentleman, this Compeyson, and he'd been to a public boarding-school and had learning. He was a smooth one to talk, and was a dab at the ways of gentlefolks. He was good-looking too... but he'd no more heart than an iron file, he was as cold as death, and he had the head of the devil afore mentioned. " (372-3) Compeyson's appearance helped him in a case against him and Magwich. Compeyson said a very divulging quote to
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