You will need a flashlight when visiting the world of Great Expectations. The novel is pretty much glued together by darkness. Even Pip’s apartment in London looks like it is weeping soot whenever it rains. Count Dracula would feel right at home nestled on the marshes or winding his way through the gloomy London streets.
Dickens creates a universe of darkness, such that whenever there is any light (whether from the sun or from some other artificial source), we sit up right away and pay attention. On the marshes, Joe’s forge is like a beacon of warmth and light that bleeds out onto the marshes. It almost reminds us of a lighthouse, serving to guide Pip along. Similarly, Miss Havisham’s house is completely dark inside, and the only way Pip gets around is by following the candle-bearing Estella. There are other moments when little points of light feature largely. The night Magwitch comes to town, Pip sees little twinkly lights outside of his window that are the city’s lamps being shaken by the storm, as though foreshadowing trouble.
Estella, whose name means "star," is often described as bright and radiant. This confuses us, because we usually associate light with the good and darkness with the bad, and Estella isn’t always the most positive influence Pip’s life. Something tells us that this novel seeks to shake up those notions and associations that we instantly think of when we see images of darkness and light. The constant contrast between the two also emphasizes the Gothic quality of the novel and helps create a visual imprint on our brains. Gothic works and gothic images always create a (brace yourself for this ten million dollar word) chiaroscuro (we rule), setting the mood and creating an atmosphere of truth-seeking.