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During my youth, I constantly found myself arguing with my twin sister, whether it be over a simple game that one of us lost or because of us stealing one another’s belongings. Often times as a way to get back at me my sister would use me to her advantage, convincing me to do some of her chores for a toy that she had that I eagerly wanted or taking the blame for something I didn’t do for a reward. Most of the time I was given no toy or reward for what I did, which in turn made me feel betrayed and used by my sister, but at the same time I knew she meant no harm in doing this. These types of transactions from my youth reminded me of the relationship that existed between Pip, Estella, and Miss Havisham in the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
When Estella was a child, Miss Havisham began searching for a boy who could be the other piece in educating Estella on breaking the hearts of men as revenge for the pain Miss Havisham endured when her heart was broken by a failed marriage. She soon found a boy named Pip, who would fail at obtaining the reward of marrying Estella, ultimately using him to her own advantages. This transaction between Pip, Estella, and Miss Havisham made me realize the importance of forgiveness and how it can change people for the better, ultimately leading in the novel to Miss Havisham repenting for the wrongs she has committed against Pip and Estella. Furthermore, I realized from reading Great Expectations that if I would have learned to openly forgive myself and my sister over the small things we used to fight over, she would have never sought revenge against me. In novels such as Great Expectations, Jane Eyre, and Why Forgive, characters struggle with different physical and mental abuse resulting from family conflicts and past events, but all of them learn to forgive their perpetrators in the end. From these experiences, we must learn to free ourselves and the ones that have hurt us from the chains of the past by forgiving one another and living in the present.
Though we may try to think that something is better off the way we want it, our attempts to make these things better in our eyes often hurt others in the process, and in the end make acceptance and forgiveness challenging but necessary for everyone. In the novel Jane Eyre, we are given a glimpse into the childhood of Jane Eyre, an orphan who was given to her aunt, Mrs. Reed, to be raised and cared for. Mrs. Reed is perceived to be an unloving woman who favors her own three children over Jane and treats her unfairly. At Gateshead Hall, although she meagerly provides for Jane Eyre’s basic needs, Mrs. Reed shows no real affection towards Jane and makes her feel like she does not belong. Mrs. Reeds goal throughout the beginning of the novel is to raise Jane to be a civilized ladylike woman but in her eyes she never sees any progress, in turn treating her harshly. The turning point of their relationship happens as a result of a conflict between Jane and her cousin John, where he was assaulting her and caused her to retaliate violently. Jane is cruelly forced by Mrs. Reed to take all of the blame and is locked in the same room where her uncle died years ago, in hopes that Jane learns from her mistakes. After this incident she is sent away from Gateshead to school and does not return to the residence until years after where Jane visits her ailing aunt. There, Mrs. Reed still shows animosity towards Jane and her behavior as a child, “I have had more trouble with that child than any one would believe. Such a burden to be left on my hands…I declare she talked to me once like something mad, or like a fiend–no child ever spoke or looked as she did; I was glad to get her away from the house.” Even after all of this, Jane learns to forgive her aunt for how she has treated her in the past, and wishes that Mrs. Reed will forgive her before she dies. In the end although her aunt did not openly forgive Jane on the outside, on the inside she was willing to forgive her and clear her consciousness. This type of forgiveness can also be seen in the story told by Kate in the novel Why Forgive. Kate grew up surrounded by her alcoholic mother’s abuse for years. After money became an issue in her family, Kate’s mother began to come home drunk different nights, which eventually resulted in the separation of her family. This led to Kate taking on the role of her mother and caring for her younger brothers when her mother was drunk or not home, “By the time Jamie, the youngest, started school, mother was almost never home. I never managed to do any homework and was not learning very much. I completely failed ninth grade and had to repeat if the following year.” Despite all of this and more, Kate moved on and made a family of her own. Soon after this, she learned that her mother needed a lot of care and was not well. When Kate arrived at her mother’s house, she realized that her mother wished to be forgiven and wanted to start a new relationship. Kate made the decision to forgive her mother and move on from the past and to live in the present. Both the journey of Jane Eyre and Kate show that when a victim is inspired by the willingness to forgive, their abuser may be changed and transformed as well.
Although it is sometimes perceived that there is only one path to forgiveness, we have the choice to forgive ourselves or forgive the people who have hurt us. In the novel Great Expectations, we are enlightened on the lifestyle of Pip and his journey to becoming a man who has set great expectations for himself. When Pip receives his unexpected fortune from an unknown benefactor, he begins to imagine all of the things he can do and accomplish with the money. At first he has no clue who this mysterious benefactor is but soon becomes convinced that it was Miss Havisham, a wealthy elderly woman who lives in a rotting mansion lamenting over her failed marriage who has chosen Pip to help keep her company. Even though she is not his benefactor, she decides to go along with Pip’s belief that she is his patron as a way to torment and humiliate him. To his dismay, Pip soon finds out that his true benefactor is Abel Magwitch, an escaped convict who has haunted Pip since he was a child. At first Pip despises Magwitch and accuses him of destroying his great expectations, ignoring the fact that Magwitch has given Pip a hefty amount of money and wishes to be on better terms with him. But after reflecting on himself and Abel Magwitch, Pip recognizes that he himself was at fault for not loving Magwitch as he loved Pip, and in turn forgave himself and his animosity towards Magwitch, ultimately becoming a better person. In contrast, the book Why Forgive tells of a story where a wife of a missionary learns to forgive the perpetrators who destroyed her family. Gladys Staines, a nurse, and her husband Graham along with there two sons found themselves happily caring for lepers in India until one day her husband and two sons did not return home from a religious retreat that they had embarked on earlier that day. To her dismay, she soon heard news that their bodies had been found, unrecognizably burned in the family Jeep. Despite this tragic incident, Gladys vowed that, ‘Whoever did this, we will forgive them.’ As the New York Times put it, ‘By her conduct, she has put to shame, if they have any shame, not only the perpetrators of the crime but all those who directly or indirectly may have sympathy for them.’ This was her way of bringing justice to the people responsible for the horrific crime, forgiving them for what they had done and leaving their fates in the hands of God.
Forgiveness acts as a remedy for all the wrongs people have done to someone else and serves to blossom friendships and happiness from these hardships. It often times is seen as lifting one out of the past and placing them running in the present by allowing them to move on from certain grudges or wrongs without long lasting hatred or animosity. Forgiveness does this by putting an emphasis on what one is missing in their present day life and shuns the act of reliving wrongs that have hurt oneself in the past. It is often alluded to being like a chain around someone’s neck, being held captive by the one who has wronged this person and who is constantly dragging the victim down with them. Until one can learn to forgive themselves or the perpetrator that has hurt them, whether it be challenging or not, they will never muster enough strength to break the spiritual chain that holds them and or their perpetrator back and will in turn never live a happy life.
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