"Too Many for the Jury": Pip's Multitudinous Narration
This essay draws on Bakhtin’s model of discourse in the novel to argue that Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations uses multiple voices, both for different characters and within the narration itself. It identifies three modes of discourse: Pip’s underlying political beliefs, his overlying narration, and the utterances of other characters. The possibility of reading the same dialogue in multiple ways supports a claim introduced earlier that literary criticism inevitably bears the hoof-prints of a critic’s own ideological hobby-horses. Pip’s narration is shaped by a desire to deny this fact and to present himself as a neutral arbiter of events. The essay concludes that simultaneous presence of imperial capitalist dogma, narratorial obfuscation and extra-narratorial dissent means that Great Expectations contradicts itself – but that since the novel is a dialogic art form, contradiction is not a bug, but a feature of the game.