Orlick as the Dark Side of Pip in Dickens' Great Expectations
Charles Dickens’ aptly titled novel Great Expectations focuses on the journey of the stories chief protagonist, Pip, to fulfill the expectations of his life that have been set for him by external forces. The fusing of the seemingly unattainable aspects of high society and upper class, coupled with Pip’s insatiable desire to reach such status, drives him to realize these expectations that have been prescribed for him. The encompassing desire that he feels stems from his experiences with Mrs. Havisham and the unbridled passion that he feels for Estella. Pip realizes that due to the society-imposed caste system that he is trapped in, he will never be able to acquire Estella’s love working as a lowly blacksmith at the forge. The gloomy realizations that Pip is undergoing cause him to categorically despise everything about himself, feeling ashamed for the life he is living when illuminated by the throngs of the upper class.
These feelings are summed up in Pip’s utter disgust and hatred for the character of Orlick. To Pip, Orlick represents everything that he abhors about himself. When Pip sees Orlick he envisions what awaits him in the future; being ensnared in a life that he couldn’t bear. Orlick, in actualization, is Pip without his high expectations. But there is a much deeper and ominous aspect of the relationship between Pip and Orlick. Dickens uses the character of Orlick to symbolize the darkside of Pip. Pip’s innermost primal feelings and desires are represented through Orlick’s actions, which Pip is ultimately responsible for. These actions ultimately lead to the downfall of both men.
In the first scene where we see Pip and Orlick together, there is no denying of the conflict and contempt that both feel for each other. Orlick resents Pip for the perceived favoritism that he feels Joe affords him, which Pip is aware of, stating: "When I became Joe’s prentice, Orlick was perhaps confirmed in some suspicion that I should displace him; howbeit, he liked me still less" (105). On the surface, both characters appear to be polar opposites of each other. Pip is referred to as Young Pip by Orlick who refers to himself as Old Orlick, even though according to Pip, "he was about five-and-twenty, but he usually spoke of himself as an ancient person" (106). The work ethic of the two blacksmith apprentices vary immensely, with Pip basically being a diligent worker as opposed to Orlick’s lazy habits who is described by Pip as "always slouching" (105). Orlick hates his job and is a generally mean and dispirited individual.
The reason why the initial forge scene is so vital to the relationship between Pip and Orlick is because despite the apparent differences seen in the two characters, it is here that Pip realizes that he and Orlick are very much alike. He sees himself as just a younger, naive, version of Orlick who he is soon to replace as Joe’s right hand man at the forge. Pip...