In Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the character of Pip, demonstrates the working class and their restrictions. Dickens uses Pip and various other characters to show that class mobility is nearly impossible in the Victorian society. If one is able to move into another class then it would change them for the worse and they would end up where they first began. In the beginning, Pip is hardly aware of his social class and his education level, but as he becomes exposed to Estella, he becomes more perceptive and desires self-enhancement. He moves to London due to the kindness of an unknown benefactor and pursues to become a “gentleman”.
Philip Pirrip or Pip did not have the deep desire to improve himself or attain educational, moral, or social advancement, until he met Miss Havisham and Estella. In the beginning of the story, Pip was alone at a graveyard and reveals that he had never met his parents. When he is older in the story he reminisces about his misconception of the engravings on the gravestones; “I read ‘wife of the Above’ as a complimentary reference to my father’s exaltation to a better world” (Dickens 38). This shows that Pip’s confusion about class structure and definition brings about the possibility for his story to be one of self-discovery (Brooks).
Pip starts to view the world differently when he meets a wealthy woman named Miss Havisham and her adopted child Estella. Miss Havisham is a wealthy old woman who lives in a manor called Satis House near Pip’s village. Pip’s views change when Estella starts pointing out and criticizing Pip’s low social class and his unrefined manners. Estella calls Pip a “boy”, implying Estella views herself as above Pip. For example, when Miss Havisham requests for her to play with Pip she responds with; “With this boy? Why he is a common labouring boy” (Dickens 55). Estella constantly belittled Pip showing him differences on their way of thinking and in their physical appearances. Pip admits, “I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair” (Dickens 55). Pip’s hands became a symbol of his social class. Those of low class rank often have hands associated with animals. Members of the working class tended to have “large palms and short fingers interpreted not only as indicators of a propensity to handle shovels, pickaxes, and barrows, but as signs of animality itself” (Capuano). The appearance of hands fortifies the differentiation between classes by physicality (Capuano). Estella says, “And what coarse hands he has!” (Dickens 55). Her attention to his physical appearance suggests that the upper class will view Pip in the very same way. Pip leaves the house not only with tears in his eyes but an obsession with becoming a gentleman of the upper class, so that he may win Estella’s heart.
In Victorian society, the only way a person can have social mobility is if they are a criminal or if they are educated. Also becoming a “gentleman” was...