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Biblical Allusions in Dickens' Great Expectations


The prodigal son parable and its influence. (set up hyper text link to text of story)

* First, we should appreciate all the two sons stories in the Bible. In some respects, reading and analyzing those texts on their own would be great fun. Can you think of other two sons stories? Esau and Jacob is my favorite. What's yours? With respect to oral traditions, too, why would someone tell a story about two sons? What's the implicit objective of the teller to frame a story in this fashion?

* Second, we need to understand that parables were not only written for those who did not believe or understand the implicit moral/truth in the tale but were also told to those who upheld and practiced the subtlety preached message. In oral traditions, it is common to retell stories in order for the listeners appreciate nuances of the message. As a result, the wisdom blossoms and takes another shape in their hearts and minds. Thus, now you might be able to appreciate my earlier comment about Joseph Conrad confided late in his life in a letter that he read Great Expectations at least once a year.

* Thirdly, the story's theme of forgiveness resonates for many characters in Great Expectations. We have discussed guilt throughout our chapter discussions. Now contemplate how forgiveness fits into these characters lives. How does guilt and innocence play a role in your life? At what point do you or do you not forgive a friend for a wrong? Should Joe forgive Pip at the end of the novel for all of those times that he "dis" Joe during those visits to Satis house? Did you count how many times? Can you imagine what it was like for Joe to walk over to the Three Jolly Bargemen, order his modest pint on Saturday evening, and begin to enjoy a puff on his pipe when some insidious fellow bar patron (probably Pumblechook, the fat hypocritical bastard) would sing out, "Hallo Jo, did you hear 'hat Pip was about town again? Oop at Satis 'ouse is wat eye 'eard. Wot du ya make that, eh Jo?"

NB: In the Bible, Joeseph is a character who does not speak much but immediately follows higher commands. When does Dickens show our Joe responding quickly to tragic situations in the text? Also note how Dickens represents the Biblical Joe's inarticulate dimension through illiteracy.

Content for the above was copied and gleaned from a great teaching resourse: Novels for Students, Volumes 1-12. Comp. and Ed. Elizabeth Thomason. Michigan: Gale Group, 1999.