In both Phantastes and Great Expectations, MacDonald and Dickens use death as a symbol signaling the complete transformation of both Anodos and Pip into mature adults. Anodos’ heroic death comes at the end of his journey through Fairyland and signifies the birth of his new maturity:
f my passions were dead, the souls of the passions, those essential mysteries of the spirit which had embodied themselves in the passions, and had given to them all their glory and wonderment, yet lived, yet glowed, with a pure, undying fire. They rose above their vanishing earthly garments, and disclosed themselves angels of light. But oh, how beautiful beyond the old form! I lay thus for a time, and lived as it were an unradiating existence; my soul a motionless lake, that received all things and gave nothing back; satisfied in still contemplation, and spiritual consciousness
While describing his feelings about his death, Anodos refers to the “old form” of his passions and describes the beauty he now feels having escaped these old passions. Anodos, who rejoices at the death of his old ways, finally sees the importance of selflessness and generosity towards others. Pip goes through a similar moral transformation and he too experiences a revelation of perspective. Through the threat of his own death and the death of Magwitch he gains a new mature view of the world. Late in the novel Orlick attacks Pip and amidst Pip’s terror he experiences a new awareness of his selfish ways and their effects on others:
My mind, with inconceivable rapidity followed out all the consequences of such a death. Estella's father would believe I had deserted him, would be taken, would die accusing me; even Herbert would doubt me, when he compared the letter I had left for him with the fact that I had called at Miss Havisham's gate for only a moment; Joe and Biddy would never know how sorry I had been that night, none would ever know what I had suffered, how true I had meant to be, what an agony I had passed through. The death close before me was terrible, but far more terrible than death was the dread of being misremembered after . [Ch 53; Place in the complete text of the novel in which this passage appears]
Pip’s understanding of others feelings marks a turning point in his growth into a more sympathetic adult. Another turning point comes with Magwitch’s death. Pip’s behavior directly prior to Magwitch’s death shows that he has realized that loyalty and love are more important that social class:
We had a doleful parting, and when I took my place by Magwitch's side, I felt that that was my place henceforth while he lived. For now, my repugnance to him had all melted away; and in the Hunted, wounded, shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously, towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe. [Ch 54; Place in the complete text of the novel in which this passage appears]
As Pip stands at Magwitch’s bed side he understands the good that is within Magwitch which in turn causes him to realize the mistakes he has made by mistreating Joe. He finally sees all the ways that Joe has been kind and caring towards him while asking for nothing in return. Pip’s realization shows that he has learned the great moral lesson that love and loyalty are more important than wealth and social prowess. As Magwitch dies, Pip experiences rebirth as a mature, loving and appreciative adult. Death in for both Pip and Anodos serves to provide a medium though which they can both grow into emotional maturity.
1. In the above passage Anodos states that his passions are “beautiful beyond the old form.” What are these “passions” and how have they changed? Of these “passions” what similar characteristics have changed within Pip?
2. How does Magwitch’s monetary generosity serve to teach Pip the meaning of true generosity?
3. Why, even though Pip has Joe as a perfect example of kindness, can he only to see Joe’s goodness after he is nearly killed and he becomes close to a convict? What does this say about the necessity of opposites for true perspective?
Last modified 8 March 2010