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Use of Irony in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectation


Great Expectations is possibly considered as the best work of Charles Dickens because of the diverse themes displayed which modulate as the story progresses. In this novel Dickens has used many different ironies in great Expectations to create uncertainty and conflict between Pip and the others gave the novel flavor.

Dickens has used Irony at two levels.  First, he uses it as a tool for the moral and spiritual education of the characters, and secondly, he uses it to provide amazements for the reader. 

There are several examples of ironic reversals in “Great Expectations.”  The relationship between Pip and Estella is very complex and ironic. In a part of this novel we observe that, after insulting and degrading Pip Estella says, “Come here! You may kiss me, if you like.” This is something unexpected, which livens up the story. 

It is ironical that, for the first time Herbert Pocket fights with Pip when they meet, should later become his best friend.  It is also ironic that Pip gives money out of his own funds to enable Herbert to enter into a business venture and later on it is this very same creativity where Pip is able to get a find work when he is penniless and jobless. 

There is a dramatic irony between Miss Havisham and Pip. It is ironic how she wanted to watch him become unhappy, just because he is of the male gender, and ironically she grew to like him. Yet what is more ironic is that Miss Havisham does not praise herself for the good deed.

Pip listens to the convict and brings him food and a file. It is ironic how a simple task such as this, changed Pip’s life forever. Pip obeyed the man, and later in life the man repaid him. It is ironic how the convict takes from Pip, and then later gives back. The convict, whom Pip feared later became his benefactor, and also was the real father of Pip’s first love, Estella.

Pip learns through ironic reversals is being able to distinguish between true values and false values. 

Joe is a little twist in the novel. It is ironic in that he is Pip’s father figure, yet Pip and Joe act more like friends or brothers. On page 14 Pip says, “I suppose Joe Gargery and I were both brought up ‘by hand’.” It seems Pip is talking about a child and not a grown adult. This is a humorous irony that keeps the audience entertained, because it is unusual. 

The relationship between Mrs. Joe and Pip consists of verbal irony. This is ironic because Pip interprets it as if being brought up by hand meant that he was punished and disciplined with beatings. Mrs. Joe however, meant that she alone had to bring him up with no help. They both have totally opposite ideas of what the same thing means. 

 One of the most bitter and cruelest ironies that worked out in the narrative is the bit about Estella’s true origins.  It turns out that this proud beauty comes from humble origins.  The best moral lessons that Pip learns through ironic reversals, is being able to distinguish between true values and false values.  

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