The aim of this essay is to define HansRobert Jauss’ concept and to illustrate the reader’s, author’s and characters’ horizonsof expectation in Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations”. Bymaking a compromise between the history-ignorant Russian Formalism, and thetext-ignorant social theories, Hans Robert Jauss came up with the term “horizonof expectation” for the criteria that the readers abide by when analysing literarytexts of a said period of time. Through it, we become aware of the work’sinitial interpretation and the way in which it had been valued.
All the same,the horizon of expectation is not set in stone. It changes accordingly to eachage, literature being reinterpreted differently according to the knowledge,experience and cultural enviornment. Expectationsform a major part of the novel’s action, for they govern the characters’ way ofacting, thinking, the way in which they perceive and react to the events thatoccur. Each expectation is formed around desire, namely future fulfilments.
However, none of the expectation in the novel come true, no matter how great orsmall they seem to be. Thisbeing said, and with the help of the novel’s subjectivity, numerouscoincidences and the influence on the unaware reader, we are bound to expectthat the characters’ expectations will be achieved. As we only witness Pip’sperspective on the story, no alternative is being brought before us. Thus, weare made believe that Miss Havisham is the person that helps Pip become agentleman, when in reality it was Abel Magwitch who helped him, for MissHavisham only aided our protagonist into becoming Joe’s apprentice and had nointention to marry him with Estella. Pumblechook and Pip’s sister expect him toinherit land from Miss Havisham, but it never happens. Miss Havisham had great expectations fromlife, until Compeyson betrayed her on their wedding day and she froze in time.In the beginning of the book Pip makes an assumption concerning how his parentswere based on their tombstones, and constantly expects to be thrown in the jailfor helping Abel and stealing food from his sister and Joe. Throughoutthe novel, we experience our protagonist’s growth as he gets accustomed to hisgreat expectations only to see them crumble, shockingly, one by one.
. We expectPip to wake up from his misunderstanding of what a gentleman truly is, and tostop pretending to be one. His idealistic view upon the situation is onlychanged when Abel confesses that he is the source of his income. Magwitch andJoe come true to the nature of a gentleman more than Pip did throughout thewhole book, despite them being a convict and a mere blacksmith. Although he hadbeen warned about the dangers of his expectations by Estella, Pip stubbornlywishes to become a gentleman so that she will marry him. As Pip is warned byEstella, the reader is warned by the mists, for in each scene that containsmists, something bad is bound to happen. Thesense of insecurity and the relation opressor-opressed are common in the novel.Not knowing who his parents were, and having been risen without theirprotection, Pip never felt security and isolated himself from the world.
Hisexpectations feed upon his lacks, for as an orphan he has no social status.Finally, they dehumanize him, as he falls victim to them. The main realtionbetween the characters is that of the opressor and the opressed.
As Jaggers isWemmick’s opressor, Wemmick is the opressor of Jaggers’ convicts. Through thisrelation, the opressor may also reap what he sows, Abel being able to enjoyPip’s gentleman’s status, for he could never achieve it, or, Pip being able toturn Herbert into a partner in their business after becoming his source offortune. Ibelieve that, by using the first person narrative, the author expects tomanipulate the reader through subjectivity and emotion, which he achieves, asthis being the cause of him having to change the sad ending with a happyversion, suggesting that Pip and Estella will marry. Inconclusion, the characters’ expectations play a big role in their actions andare nurtured by their lacks. All of them crumble, however, and we, as readersare persuaded into following the story, through Pip’s eyes, and into gettingemotionally involved with it, waiting for their expectations to come true, but neverhappening.