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Great Expectations By Charles Dickens Essay

4153 words - 17 pages

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Throughout the Victorian era humanity was obsessed with social status
and took every opportunity to search for meaningful existence within
society. ‘Great Expectations’ follows Pip’s journey from childhood to
adulthood, acquainting with both the true and false qualities of a
‘gentleman’. All through the novel, social class provides an
arbitrary, external standard of value by which the characters judge
one another. During Pip’s progression of becoming a ‘gentleman’ he
realizes appearance is not the main quality a gentleman should posses.
Dickens provides Pip, the protagonist, with extreme challenges
involving his genteel qualities to expose the obvious need of being
accepted in the social hierarchy, even if this acceptance included
dismissing known loved ones.

Pip longs to be a “gentleman” in one sense but learns to be a
gentleman in the truest sense of the word. This longing to become a
gentleman arose when seven year old Pip first encountered with Estella
and has followed Pip through every memory and incident which occurred
afterwards. As a child, having met Estella, Pip changed his
perspectives about his surroundings and his family, but most of all
about himself. His longing to marry Estella from young age on
influenced his behavior throughout his life and the book. “I want to
be a gentleman on her account” Pip explains to Biddy. Pip’s desire to
be a gentleman is to live up to Estella’s expectations and impress her
by changing himself.

Estella’s harsh words and thoughts towards Pip affected his thoughts
about his family, surroundings and himself. “He calls the knaves,
Jacks, this boy, and what coarse hands he has, and what thick boots!”
– Estella “I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before;
but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair.” – Pip began to
believe Estella’s words, which left to him feeling horribly conscious
about being who he was. Pip - “I was haunted by the fear that she
would, sooner or later, find me out, with a black face and hands,
doing the coarsest part of my work, and would exult over me and
despise me.” Pip’s desire for becoming a gentleman and reaching up to
Estella’s wishes largely surpassed his childhood. With Estella’s
negative thoughts about Pip, he began to feel discontent with the
existing life he had, “Biddy, I am not at all happy as I am. I am
disgusted with my calling and with my life. I have never taken to
either, since I was bound.” – Pip.

As a character, Pip’s idealism often leads him to identify the world
rather narrowly, and his tendency to generalize situations based on
exterior values leads him to behave badly toward the people who care
about him. When Pip receives his mysterious fortune, he immediately
begins to act as he thinks a gentleman is supposed to act, which...

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