Great Expectations is a novel which, in its first part, focuses largely on the education and upbringing of a young boy, Pip. Orphaned at a young age, he is raised “by hand” by his older sister and her husband, a blacksmith. Written from the adult Pip’s point of view, the novel describes his limited education at the hands of Wopsle’s aunt, as well as his apprenticeship in Joe’s forge. His moral education is left to his sister, whose main teaching is that Pip should have never been born to plague her life with worry, and a few lines of the Catechism, whose message of “walk the same in all the days of your life” Pip follows religiously by taking the same route home every day. In all his education one aspect is noticeably absent: the indoctrination of a spiritual code or set of beliefs. Indeed throughout the novel, Pip seems unaware of any higher purpose to his actions and circumstances, and most of the philosophical thought in the narrative comes from Pip the Narrator, writing from a later time. Because of this distinct absence, the first mention of something having a spiritual significance is important. To Pip this is not a teaching of the Church, but rather his own domestic space. To embrace this space would perhaps be Pip’s best chance for happiness, but instead he rejects it. Pip’s rejection of the “sacred domesticity” occurs three times in his early life, and leaves him vulnerable to outside forces that threaten to take away his control of his own destiny. Before Pip is even consciously aware of the sanctity of his home, he violates that sanctity be stealing food for the convict. This is one of Pip’s first actions as narrated by his older self, and the first instance the reader sees of his losing control of his own actions. However, although in his mind he is forced without recourse to commit this theft, the degree to which he carries out his orders shows a deliberate violation of the sacred space of the kitchen. As he explains, “I was nearly going away without the pie, but I was tempted to mount upon a shelf, to look what it was that was put away so carefully in a covered earthenware dish in a corner, and found it was the pie, and I took it, in the hope that…it would not be missed for some time” (52). First, the convict did not specify an amount to be taken, and Pip had already removed bread, cheese, mincemeat, brandy, and a meat bone. To take the pie is Pip’s own choice; he says he is “tempted” to turn around and climb up the shelf. The pie has a greater significance than all the other food; it is to be the crowning grand finale at the upcoming Christmas dinner. Supposing that the young Pip had no choice but to take some amount of food (as he believes and leads the reader to believe), taking a bare minimum of perhaps some bread and cheese and a scrap of meat would have made him a victim of the convict, rather than a criminal, as he feels in his heart he is. When he does take the pie, it is perhaps unconsciously out of spite for his sister, but whatever his motive, the choice serves in a small way for him to regain control: he is able to choose what it is he will steal. Pip’s second rejection of the sacred domesticity occurs when he begins to feel ashamed of his home and wish for a different life. He says, “Home had never been a very pleasant place for me…but Joe had sanctified it…I had believed in the front door, as a mysterious portal of the Temple of State…I had believed in the kitchen as a chaste though not magnificent apartment; I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and independence” (140). Ironically, it is not until he realizes this that he feels he must turn away from it. The final sentence of this passage is significant in that if the forge represents manhood and independence, then rejecting that physical structure means rejecting those ideals as well. Pip does not do this consciously; he never states that he does not want to be a man or independent, but in the years following his realization these things are not a priority, and his actions reveal this. He enjoys the independence of his newfound fortune, but only so far as they remove him from home and place him closer to the vague situation of being a “gentleman”. He lives extravagantly off this “independence” but does not work to secure it for the future. And by doing no work, he is actually more dependant than the lowliest blacksmith. When Pip moves to London, and during his residence with Herbert Pocket, Pip becomes a man in terms of years, but age does not bring maturity. He never mentions having any pride in being a man, and lives well beyond his mean, not having the wisdom to curb his extravagance. Pip rejects the domestic, but would have been financially stable and more independent had he not. After having rejected the sacred domesticity in thought, he finally rejects it in action when he moves to London to obtain his education as a gentleman. Pip trades his potential for domestic happiness for his expectations. Even though he thinks this is a positive change in his life, he is actually more uncertain than ever. He says of his expectations: “And at best, how indefinite and unsatisfactory, only to know so vaguely what they are” (277). The very word “expectation” implies an indefinite end, because that end is dependant on outside forces. Pip merely expects events to occur, rather than working toward a final goal. His outlook is reflected in his roommate Herbert, who is always “looking about him” for his fortune. He is expecting his fortune to be made through opportunity, rather than making the fortune for himself. Pip is even less active; while Herbert has the dream of realizing capital for investment, Pip simply lives life day by day, only doing what he is told. He tells Herbert, “I cannot tell you how dependent and uncertain I feel, and exposed to hundreds of chances” (277). By putting his future entirely in the hands of others, Pip allows others to take control of his life’s story. When Pip learns of his great expectations, the higher purpose of his life changes from the glory of manhood and independence to a dependence on Fortune. He looks increasingly to this changeable deity for meaning and support. Pip tells Herbert, “I know I have done nothing to raise myself in life, and that Fortune alone has raised me; that is very lucky” (277). Until he realizes his expectations, Pip seems to have no notion of Fate or Fortune, and mention of these are noticeably absent in the early part of the novel. To Fortune, however, Pip assigns the most significant thing that has every happened to him. In this sentence he also rejects his upbringing by Mrs. Joe: he claims to have been “raised by fortune”, echoing the phrase “raised by hand” he has heard many times throughout his childhood. For Pip, being raised by fortune is much more agreeable than being raised by hand, which he took to mean being constantly subjected to punishment. Nevertheless, Pip’s rejection of the sacred domesticity in favor of his expectations is problematic because it does nothing to help him control his own destiny, and does not bring him happiness. He even thinks, at one point that “I should have been happier…if I had never seen Miss Havisham’s face, and had risen to manhood content to be partners with Joe in the honest old forge”(300). Here again he equates life in the forge to manhood, and in this thought, with honesty, which is in contrast to his reoccurring sense of criminality. Pip’s dilemma also reflects a problem with the concept of “being a gentleman” in the Victorian era. Dickens raises the question on whether it would be better to have made one’s own situation in life, rather than have it made by someone else. In Pip’s case, if he had become at blacksmith, he would have lost the potential to become a gentleman and marry Estella, but would have gained control over his own fate. Work Cited Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Eds. Graham Law and Adrian J Pinnington. Ontario: Broadview Press, 1998.
In literature, an author will often choose to portray a turning point in a novel through a change in setting. This transformation alerts the reader to take notice of not simply the plot development but also many other things about the work. For example, the setting may allow one to draw parallels between the story and the bigger picture, in part by examining the author’s biography and the time in which the literary work was written. Likewise, in Great Expectations, Pip’s travel between two separate settings of England – from the marsh country of Kent in the southeast to the city of London – mirrors author Charles Dickens’s own move during childhood, as well as the universal population shift from the country to the city as a result of the changes induced by the Industrial Revolution. Pip’s story starts with his family – that is, his sister Mrs. Joe Gargery and her husband Joe – in a small village in the misty marsh country. Here the main character, an orphan, is brought up “by hand” and it is expected that he will someday become apprenticed to Joe, the town blacksmith (6). Although Dickens himself was not an orphan by the traditional definition, he was forced to become self-sufficient later on in his childhood. However, this setting early on in the book does relate more clearly to that of Dickens’s home as a child. In fact, it is known that his family took residence in Chatham of Kent from the time he was four years old until his father was transferred to London (Victorian Web).Additionally, these living conditions depicted in the book are generally representative of those in the early 19th century, the time before the Industrial Revolution. For instance, the family unit was considered the cornerstone of the time-honored agricultural economy. Those who were not farming families made their living with “mercantile activity,” as most skilled trades were handled in the individual households (World Civilizations). This was the small type of community, in which all the villagers are involved in everyone else’s business, a theme also found in Great Expectations. For example, it was a common occurrence for the townsmen to gather in the Three Jolly Bargemen and listen to Mr. Wopsle share a dramatic interpretation of the latest sensational news (146-147). Apparently, this small self-sufficient village was an archetype to the simple, everyday life of pre-Industrial Revolution times. As the story of Great Expectations progresses and Pip nears his adolescent years, he is bound into service as a blacksmith’s apprentice to Joe (114-120). He quickly develops an aversion to the forge and the trade, much like author Charles Dickens did towards his job at Warren’s Blacking Factory around the same age. Just as Pip was forced into his apprenticeship by Miss Havisham and the other adults, Dickens had no choice but to accept his position when his father and the rest of his family was imprisoned for debt (Victorian Web). This experience “scarred him psychologically” and in most likelihood, became a sort of inspiration for the internal torture, misery, and alienation that the setting of Joe’s forge brings about in Pip. Just when Pip is about to give up on his great expectations, he is rescued from the fate of a blacksmith by a mystery benefactor. His dreams of achieving a higher education and becoming a gentleman are realized as his sponsor provides him the funds and means to move to the city, London (151-153). Similarly, Dickens’s father acts almost like the benefactor in rescuing him from the fate his mother wished for him, to continue work at the Blacking Factory after his father had been released from prison. Dickens instead gains a higher education in London as well, by attending a school there at age twelve (Victorian Web). Despite the age disparity between Dickens and his autobiographical character Pip at this point in time, their comparable experiences and emotions undoubtedly line up alongside each other.As optimistic as Pip was in anticipating the London of the elegant and noble society, he soon becomes disenchanted and learns that the city is not all that he had hoped for it to be. His first impressions are not favorable; although slightly frightened by its enormity, he thinks it as a whole to be “rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty” (177). Pip isn’t any more pleased by his accommodations, which he considers “the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for Tom-cats” (188). This description could be discovered true in the reality of the Industrial Revolution. At this time, England was going through a gradual transformation from the agricultural, family-based economy mentioned earlier to the capitalist, industry-based economy starting to take shape (World Civilizations). This change in economic focus to manufactured products led to a shift in population; people were moving from the country villages to the city in order to entertain the hope for a different, better life than that in which they had been raised. Such a sudden, rapid relocation of the workforce caused crowding and other unsanitary conditions (Yale-New Haven). Evidently, the filth in the real London and in Pip’s London is one and the same.Some of the several effects of the Industrial Revolution on society are portrayed in Great Expectations through the different settings of England utilized in the novel, including both the population shift between settings and the conditions of the village and the city. Author Charles Dickens also employs the autobiographical element of his own childhood travel between the marshes of the country in Kent and the city of London in the experiences of the book’s main character Pip. In addition, the use of setting expands on not only the plot development, tone, and other literary devices but gives clues as to the historical and biographical context of the literary work.
In the first part of Dicken’s Great Expectations, Pip confesses to his readers that “I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me” (63). During Pip’s first visit to Satis House in Chapter Eight, he finds himself crying from brutal humiliation and explains to his readers that his sister’s bringing him up by hand made him sensitive (63). He continues by explaining that “in the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely felt, as injustice” (63). His cry of injustice, however, does not leave him even when he grows. Though Pip is looking back on all these events and placing them in his narrative as an adult, his tone and language indicate a sense of bitterness. Although he has overcome his disappointments and failures by the end of the novel and is now looking back and retelling his story, he is still blaming his sister’s bringing him up “by hand” as the cause for his vulnerabilities. This feeling of “injustice” has never left him “within myself, I had sustained, from my babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice” (63).From the very first lines of the novel the readers are given a depressing view of Pip’s childhood. The only thing that represents his parents is their tombstones. His five dead brothers, “who gave up trying to get a living; exceedingly early in that universal struggle” (3), illustrates the harshness of the world in which Pip grew up. Not knowing anything more about his family, Pip fantasizes about them; he imagines his father was a “square, stout, dark man, with curly hair” and his mother was “freckled and sickly” (3). As a deprived child he is forced to fantasize and imagine the world in various ways, and according to Hochman and Wachs, “his discourse throughout [the novel] is shot through with imagery that powerfully refracts fantasy material characteristic of [his] early life” (168). For instance, the sharp needles and pins jammed into the buttered bread Mrs. Joe fed both himself and Joe (10) in the first part of the novel were paralleled later on by the sharp handles of the nutcracker that might have poked out baby Pocket’s eyes (194). The file Pip had stolen from the forge reappears again in chapter ten as the stranger in the Jolly Bargemen stirred his rum-and-water with it (77). The Pocket’s children’s tumbling upside-down in Chapter Twenty Two echoes Pip’s being tilted upside-down by Magwitch in the very first chapter. Even Tickler the “wax-ended piece of cane, worn smooth by collision with my [Pip’s] tickled frame” (9), never leaves Pip’s mind; by the time of his sister’s funeral in chapter thirty five Pip still remembers the Tickler (278).Guilt also never leaves Pip. According to Pip, his sister had always believed that he “was a young offender whom an Accoucheur Policemen had taken up…and delivered to her, to be dealt with according to the outraged majesty of the law. “I [Pip] was always treated as if I had insisted on being born, in opposition to the dictates of reason, religion, and morality… ” (23). Mr. Wopsle and Mr. Pumblechook must also see Pip in this light as they discuss Mr. Wopsle’s pork sermon “the gluttony of Swine is put before us, as an example to the young…what is detestable in a pig, is more detestable in a boy” (27). For these reasons, it seems natural for Pip to feel so much guilt throughout the course of the novel.At the very start of the novel he is forced to steal food from the dreadful Mrs. Joe and steal the file from Joe. Because of this, he feels guilty in two different ways. First, his guilt for stealing from his sister takes the form of fear and, second, his stealing from Joe causes him to feel ashamed. The readers are given a vivid description of his internal struggles as Mr. Pumblechook takes a sip of tar water from the glass of what Mr. Pumblechook assumes to be brandy “O heavens, it had come at last! …I held tight to the leg of the table under the cloth, with both hands, and awaited my fate…I didn’t know how I had done it, but I had murdered him somehow” (28). Fortunately Pip was not caught by Mrs. Joe and Mr. Pumblechook recovered. However, just as Pip began to calm down and release the leg of the table, his nerves unraveled again as Mrs. Joe remembers to offer her guests the pork pie Pip had stolen (29). Later on in chapter 13 when Pip enters the Town Hall to be bounded as Joe’s apprentice, the crowd of people he encounters assumes he has committed some sort of crime. Even in London, Pip cannot escape Jaggers’s pocket-handkerchief and waving finger, or the anxiety of housing a convict.In many situations Pip’s guilt occurs from his feeling contaminated by crime, tainted by his having helped a convict. While Pip, as a child, quivers at the sight of the prison ship by the marshland and describes it as a “wicked Noah’s ark” (40), he also quivers at the sight of Newgate. For Pip, Newgate is a reminder of his childhood, and after visiting the prison with Wemmick in Chapter Thirty Two, he thinks to himself “how strange it was that I should be encompassed by all this taint of prison and crime; that, in my childhood out on our lonely marshes on a winter evening I should have first encountered it” (264). Dickens himself also feels the same way about Newgate, and in his diary he explains that he has never lost his original feelings upon viewing the prison, “to this hour I never pass the building without something like a shudder and have never outgrown the rugged walls” (75).With respect to Hochman and Wachs, Pip’s present preservation of his “infantile sense of the interpretation of… his endless vulnerable self and the relentless invasive others” and the vividness of his narrative shows that he has not triumphantly outgrown his “orphan condition” (170). Kincaid, on the other hand, believes that through the process of retelling his story Pip outgrows his victimized state by examining a passage from the novel:It was fine summer weather again, and as I walked along, the times when I was a little helpless creature, and my sister did not spare me, vividly returned. But they returned with a gentle tone upon them, that softened even the edge of Tickler. For now, the very breath of the beans and clover whispered to my heart that the day must come when it would be well for my memory of others walking in the sun shine should be softened as they thought of me.Kincaid points out that the passage starts off with a memory that defines Pip as a victim, but then it moves away from that quickly and moves towards forgiveness (41). Whether or not Kincaid or Hochman and Wachs are correct, it seemed necessary for Dickens to offer the narrative through Pip’s voice. Only through Pip’s voice can readers sympathize with the helpless, battered, abandoned child and it seems that Dickens is asking his readers to treat children with compassion – for the quote written in Dickens’s diary:”In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice,” (Great Expectations, 63; My Early Times, 77)is borrowed by Pip in the novel from Dickens himself.Works CitedDickens, Charles. My Early Times. Ed. Peter Rowland. London: Aurum Press, 1997.Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Charlotte Mitchell. New York: Penguin Classics, 1996.Hochman, Baruch and Ilja Wachs. Dickens: The Orphan Condition. Cranbury: Associated University Press, 1999.Kincaid, James R. “Dickens and the Construction of the Child.” Dickens and /the Children of The Empire. Ed. Wendy S. Jacobson. New York: Palgrave, 2000. 29-42.
In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens presents a social commentary that dramatizes the role Victorian society plays in shaping the lives of its members. In particular, the novel addresses how society shapes the definition of the gentleman and, more specifically, how it shapes PipÃ¢ÂÂs desire to become a gentleman. Dickens intends the novel to be more than simply the story of PipÃ¢ÂÂs expectations; he also intends it to deliver a message about the expectations of society as a whole. Through the behaviors of various characters in the novel, Dickens delivers his satire on the values of society. He purposely sets up the heroic characters as the ones who are basically unconcerned with the demands of society, thereby reinforcing his mistrust of societyÃ¢ÂÂs values. Joe is the most admirable character in the novel because he is more concerned with humanistic matters than with social ones; he places more importance on his meaningful relationships with others than on social advancement. By the end of the novel, Pip arrives at the conclusion that societyÃ¢ÂÂs requirements of a gentleman are not necessarily indicative of true gentlemanliness. He realizes the detrimental effects of his ambition on his life and on his relationship with Joe, and he discovers that he has the best role model possible in the Ã¢ÂÂgentle Christian manÃ¢Â? (Dickens 421). Pip becomes a different kind of gentleman than he previously desired to become. In allowing PipÃ¢ÂÂs life to go in the direction it does, Dickens reinforces the idea that a conscience is a more important quality in a gentleman than social or financial improvement.Dickens does not intend the novel to be merely the story of an individual, but as the title suggests, he intends it to be thematic for society as a whole. While the titles of several of DickensÃ¢ÂÂ other novels focus solely on particular individuals, the title of Great Expectations suggests a universal theme. By naming the novel as he does, Dickens Ã¢ÂÂreaches beyond Pip to suggest the expectations of a whole societyÃ¢Â? (Gilmour 112). Pip is deluded by society into pursuing a more worldly life than the forge can offer him. The delusion of individuals like Pip Ã¢ÂÂreflects a larger mania: [. . .] a rise of unprecedented importance that made self-satisfaction irresistible and self-scrutiny unpatrioticÃ¢Â? (Meckier 545). In nineteenth century England, self-satisfaction is dependent on the attainment of a prominent social status according to Victorian societyÃ¢ÂÂs standards. Criticism of these values in society was considered inappropriate. DickensÃ¢ÂÂ satire is built upon the foundation that societyÃ¢ÂÂs means for self-satisfaction are not entirely accurate. As Pip illustrates, true self-satisfaction is reflected in a moral conscience rather than in the attainment of worldly possessions. By dedicating his attention to worldly values, Pip betrays the morality that is in his heart from the beginning. Pip is unable to secure any fulfillment from his progress as a gentleman; he is a most miserable being until he returns to his moral conscience and childhood values.Dickens uses Great Expectations to express social ironies that exist during the nineteenth century; in doing so, he delivers Ã¢ÂÂwhat is in many ways his most profound commentary on Victorian civilisation and its valuesÃ¢Â? (Gilmour 107). Throughout the novel, Dickens satirically Ã¢ÂÂequates the impulse toward self-improvement with base cravings for social and material advance[ment]Ã¢Â? (Meckier 543). A central theme of the novel is that social and financial advancement are not necessarily indicative of self-improvement. Upward social mobility can be, as in PipÃ¢ÂÂs case, as self-destructing as it is self-improving. Dickens reveals the shallowness of the VictoriansÃ¢ÂÂ requirements of a gentleman: Ã¢ÂÂto become better off, not a better personÃ¢Â? (Meckier 543).Great Expectations fuses PipÃ¢ÂÂs individual story with a social indictment. Dickens uses the story of PipÃ¢ÂÂs expectations to illustrate the Ã¢ÂÂnatural unconditioned life of the heart and the socially destructive process which weakens and distorts it, transforming instinct into calculation, human love into manipulation, generosity into greed, [and] spontaneity into shame and ambitionÃ¢Â? (Hardy 21). As illustrated through his childhood, Pip is a tenderhearted soul; his ambitiousness, however, leads to greed and unkindness. Dickens employs the story of PipÃ¢ÂÂs expectations to highlight various ways in which society destroys the conscience and replaces it with inconsiderate social ambitiousness.Herbert Pocket is the first societal gentleman with whom Pip comes into contact. Upon their first encounter, Pip identifies Herbert as a pale young gentleman and Ã¢ÂÂcomes face to face with a version of the person he wants to beÃ¢Â? (Frank 158). During PipÃ¢ÂÂs pursuit of his expectations, Herbert instructs him on how to behave with the air of gentility, and Pip is certain of HerbertÃ¢ÂÂs status as a gentleman. Ironically, however, not even the pale young gentleman is able to rise Ã¢ÂÂby his own exertions. He would never have become a capitalist [. . .] without MagwitchÃ¢ÂÂs capital, which Pip uses as a downpayment for his roommateÃ¢ÂÂs partnershipÃ¢Â? (Meckier 553). PipÃ¢ÂÂs desire to use a portion of his financial expectations to help Herbert evokes the goodness that remains in his heart. At the same time, however, it cannot be ignored that Pip chooses to help Herbert because he holds a place in upper-class society that Joe does not. Although it is true that Joe would refuse to accept money from Pip, it is also true that Pip could help him without his knowledge in the same manner as he provides for Herbert. The fact that Pip chooses to provide anonymous financial support to Herbert instead of Joe demonstrates the effects of society on his priorities.The idea of the gentleman is one that plays a predominant role throughout the entirety of the novel. During the nineteenth century, a significant degree of ambiguity surrounded the Victorian idea of what constitutes a gentleman. The uncertainty that made defining a gentleman difficult was significant to the Victorians because it made available opportunities for outsiders to attain the status. Social mobility and the accessibility of the gentlemanly status were appealing largely because they provided lower-class citizens with a status toward which they could aspire. Perhaps the most fascinating element of the gentleman for the Victorians, however, was the Ã¢ÂÂsubtle and shifting balance between social and moral attributesÃ¢Â? (Gilmour 4). The Victorian concept of the gentleman equally combines the qualities of gentleness and manliness. The problematic aspect of this definition involves Ã¢ÂÂknowing what weight to give to Ã¢ÂÂgentleÃ¢ÂÂ in its meaning of Ã¢ÂÂgentle birthÃ¢ÂÂ and what to its more modern sense of Ã¢ÂÂtenderÃ¢ÂÂÃ¢Â? (86). If the majority of the definitionÃ¢ÂÂs weight is attributed to gentle birth, lower-class Victorians have no chance of attaining the status; on the other hand, if tenderness is weighted more heavily, even simple Joe Gargery embodies the possibility of becoming a gentleman.The novel can be perceived as a Ã¢ÂÂsatire on snobberyÃ¢Â? (Newsom 147). The word never appears in the novel, but in his social ambitiousness, Pip comments on his unfaithfulness to Joe. He expresses guilt at forsaking his true self and his life at the forge in pursuit of something he has been deceived into believing is more admirable. Until he discovers that Magwitch is his benefactor, however, Pip fails to understand the extent of his Ã¢ÂÂdesertion of Joe [. . . and] his metamorphoses into a shallow snobÃ¢Â? (Dabney 141). Dickens does not endorse Victorian class divisions, and he Ã¢ÂÂconstantly undermines [the divisions in PipÃ¢ÂÂs mind]; he is not concerned to justify PipÃ¢ÂÂs rise in station but rather to suggest and analyse the guilt, the inhibition, [and] the personal betrayals which this involvesÃ¢Â? (Gimour 116). Based on Matthew PocketÃ¢ÂÂs interpretations, Pip is not equipped to become a true gentleman because Ã¢ÂÂno man who was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner. He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itselfÃ¢Â? (Dickens 177). Perhaps Mr. PocketÃ¢ÂÂs behavior is hypocritical to his views on the gentleman because he encourages PipÃ¢ÂÂs pursuit by tutoring him in a gentlemanÃ¢ÂÂs education.Previous to his interactions with Miss Havisham and Estella, Pip has no knowledge of class divisions. He is completely satisfied with his life at the forge until Estella shuns him and leads him to believe that he does not deserve to be in her company and is not worthy of her affection. The result of EstellaÃ¢ÂÂs snobbery is PipÃ¢ÂÂs ambitious desire to become a gentleman that leads him to betray himself and the values he has adopted from Joe during his childhood. With the exception of Joe and Biddy, everyone in PipÃ¢ÂÂs life encourages him to better himself according to societyÃ¢ÂÂs standards. Even Mrs. Joe, who has brought Pip up by hand, is thrilled when he goes to visit Miss Havisham because she hopes Miss Havisham will help Pip to advance.Going to Miss HavishamÃ¢ÂÂs, however, opens up an entirely new realm of life to Pip and fosters an intense ambition within him. Estella scorns his commonness, and she quickly becomes the motivation behind his obsession with becoming a gentleman. Under the direction of Miss Havisham, Estella has become the Ã¢ÂÂexact opposite of an angel-in-the-house [. . .] Instead of internalizing her suffering, as was expected of a good Victorian woman, she inflicts suffering on menÃ¢Â? (Ayres 90). EstellaÃ¢ÂÂs comments at their first meeting excite a kind of Ã¢ÂÂself-conscious shameÃ¢Â? in Pip and facilitate his desire to become a gentleman (Newsom 148). Immediately thereafter, Pip reflects, Ã¢ÂÂThat was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in meÃ¢Â? (Dickens 84). From that day forward, PipÃ¢ÂÂs perceptions of the world and his place in it are significantly altered.PipÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂsubjectivity [is] shapedÃ¢Â? through a process that begins when Estella calls him Ã¢ÂÂcommonÃ¢Â? (Frank 155). She becomes the primary factor motivating his selfish behavior because he believes that he must become a gentleman in order to have a place in her world. In her presence, Pip feels inadequate. She treats his as an unnecessary person, and the Ã¢ÂÂpainful rebuff he perceives in EstellaÃ¢ÂÂs face and words provides further Impetus to Pip to fashion a selfÃ¢Â? (Frank 155). Estella immediately begins to play an indispensable role in PipÃ¢ÂÂs conception of himself. His entire personality changes as a result of his visits to Satis House; he Ã¢ÂÂproceeds to strike out from the chain of his life those days that tend to subvert the idea of the gentlemanÃ¢Â? he has acquired through EstellaÃ¢ÂÂs comments (Frank 160). When she mocks his coarse hands, Pip becomes conscious of his body for the first time and immediately takes the Ã¢ÂÂopportunity [. . .] to look at [his] coarse hands and [his] common boots. [His] opinion of those accessories was not favourable. They had never troubled [him] before, but they troubled [him] now as vulgar appendagesÃ¢Â? (Dickens 75). Satis House and the world for which it stands lead Pip to envision a new life for himself; in doing so, he selfishly rejects any allusion to his life at the forge.Ultimately, the new life Pip attempts to create for himself is built upon nothing but an intense desire to become a gentleman. The conscience that formerly motivated his behavior is unable to compete with the ambition that consumes him in his pursuit of his expectations. PipÃ¢ÂÂs idea of a gentleman, however, is Ã¢ÂÂill conceived and naively developed. It rests on a contemptible snobbery, which leads Pip to repudiate the best man he has ever knownÃ¢Â? (Buckley 51). It does not occur to Pip that a gentleman should be Ã¢ÂÂtolerant, open to new ideas, devoted to the free play of the intellect, sympathetic, [or] considerate of the feelings of othersÃ¢Â? (52). To Pip, his status as a gentleman is dependent on EstellaÃ¢ÂÂs approval of him. Estella is a shallow individual, and through her influence, Pip becomes shallow as well.In the midst of his relentlessly selfish pursuit of a gentlemanly status, nonetheless, Pip Ã¢ÂÂretains enough judgment to be frequently dissatisfied with his conductÃ¢Â? (57). Pip is remorseful about his behavior: Ã¢ÂÂIt is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of homeÃ¢Â? (Dickens 113). By the end of the novel, he has realized his mistakes and is able to regain his self-respect and the autonomy he has relinquished to Miss Havisham and Estella and to the idea of himself they have fostered in his mind. At this point, he Ã¢ÂÂceases merely to be the puppet of his own desires and of the desires of others [and] begins to accept responsibility for his suppression of the pastÃ¢Â? (Frank 174). At last, Pip understands that Joe is the Ã¢ÂÂone feature in his life that does not changeÃ¢Â? (180). Pip discovers the quality of the role model he has from the beginning in the Ã¢ÂÂgentle Christian manÃ¢Â? (Dickens 421).Various characters in the novel can be perceived as Ã¢ÂÂsignpostsÃ¢Â? for PipÃ¢ÂÂs progress: Ã¢ÂÂthe provocation of Miss Havisham, the lure of Estella, the example of Herbert Pocket, the horror of Magwitch, [and] the integrity of JoeÃ¢Â? (Bradbury 94-95). PipÃ¢ÂÂs progress begins with the foundation of urgent ambition and is realized by the remorseful desire to bring back the past. Upon their first encounter, Miss Havisham provokes Pip into a desire to please Estella, and Estella lures him into pursuing her although she knows the result of such a pursuit will be nothing less than catastrophic for him. When Pip begins to pursue his expectations, Herbert provides an example for him as he attempts to become a gentleman in manner as well as in wealth. Magwitch horrifies Pip on two levels: negative and positive. As a child on the marshes, Pip is horrified by MagwitchÃ¢ÂÂs criminality; as an adult, Pip is again horrified when Magwitch reveals his identity as his benefactor. The positive aspect of PipÃ¢ÂÂs horrification occurs when MagwitchÃ¢ÂÂs sincerity forces Pip to understand the extent of his horrifyingly cruel behavior toward Joe. JoeÃ¢ÂÂs integrity brings Pip back to his roots and allows him to finally become a gentleman in the most admirable sense of the word.JoeÃ¢ÂÂs goodness is certainly Ã¢ÂÂradically unworldlyÃ¢Â? (Dabney 128). Joe is unconcerned with the worldÃ¢ÂÂs value system, and Ã¢ÂÂhis only ambition is moral; he means to do right. He is a great simplifier Ã¢Â” Ã¢ÂÂlies is liesÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢Â” and reduces all dilemmas to moral issuesÃ¢Â? (Dabney 128). In direct opposition to PipÃ¢ÂÂs superficial education, Ã¢ÂÂJoeÃ¢ÂÂs scholarship [. . .] is of a kind that allows the perception of true valueÃ¢Â? (Raina 113). During his childhood, Pip appreciates JoeÃ¢ÂÂs goodness and recalls Ã¢ÂÂlooking up to Joe in [his] heartÃ¢Â? (Dickens 64). As he begins to be consumed with ambition, however, he finds himself feeling ashamed of Joe and wishing Joe was Ã¢ÂÂbetter qualified for a rise in stationÃ¢Â? (150).In addition to a commentary on the VictorianÃ¢ÂÂs destructive idea of self-help, a secondary commentary Dickens dramatizes through the novel addresses the idea of criminality in Victorian society. To the Victorians, it was unacceptable to admit faults in the society of nineteenth century England. Ironically, the money that enables Pip to pursue his expectations is provided by Magwitch, an exiled criminal; the money, therefore comes Ã¢ÂÂfrom the underworld Ã¢Â” literally the underworld of Australia where he has made his money, and symbolically from the social underworld of violent crimeÃ¢Â? (Gilmour 116). Dickens intentionally chooses Magwitch as PipÃ¢ÂÂs benefactor instead of Miss Havisham in order to set up a framework of criminality that Ã¢ÂÂtouch[es] the very nerve of a characteristic mid-Victorian dilemmaÃ¢Â? (124). This dilemma involves the unresolved debate about the acceptability of an individual whose gentlemanliness is attributable to the money of a criminal. Another aspect of the dilemma focuses on the question of whether a criminal who becomes rich, educated, and polite can be acknowledged as a gentleman. Through the relationship between Pip and Magwitch, Dickens delivers the message that Ã¢ÂÂcriminality and civilisation [. . .] are not warring opposites but intimately and inextricably bound togetherÃ¢Â? (138). PipÃ¢ÂÂs repulsion at violence is part of what leads him to desire to become a gentleman. Ironically, the violence he has attempted to escape Ã¢ÂÂprovides the ultimate touchstone for the values and social position he has embracedÃ¢Â? (139).As an Ã¢ÂÂimportant agent in the conversion of Pip, [. . . Magwitch] Ã¢ÂÂfirst exacerbates and then exorcizes [PipÃ¢ÂÂs] pride and ingratitudeÃ¢Â? (Hardy 46). The expectations Magwitch makes available to Pip promote PipÃ¢ÂÂs transformation into an inconsiderate and selfish climber on the social ladder. MagwitchÃ¢ÂÂs heart-felt devotion to Pip, however, facilitates his return to his former kind and appreciative self. Edward Said points out that Ã¢ÂÂMagwitchÃ¢ÂÂs delinquency is expiated [. . .] after Pip redemptively acknowledges his debt to the [. . .] vengeful convictÃ¢Â? (Said 526). When Magwitch dies, Pip suffers a physical collapse; upon his recovery, he is a changed man who emerges Ã¢ÂÂnot as an idle gentleman but as a hardworking traderÃ¢Â? (526). Arthur Adrian regards PipÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂcollapse and coma as the symbolic death of the character created by MagwitchÃ¢Â?; essentially, the self-centered Pip dies with his creator (Adrian 90). As he recovers, Pip sheds his Ã¢ÂÂfalse pride, his shame over his humble background, [and] his ambition to be a gentlemanÃ¢Â? (90). Pip finally realizes that Ã¢ÂÂtrue gentility [. . .] resides in an unselfish respect for others,Ã¢Â? a value that Joe represents from the beginning, but Pip fails to recognize because he is blinded by ambition (90).In the scene during which Magwitch professes his role as PipÃ¢ÂÂs benefactor, Magwitch proudly proclaims, Ã¢ÂÂYes, Pip, dear boy, IÃ¢ÂÂve made a gentleman on youÃ¢Â? (Dickens 297). MagwitchÃ¢ÂÂs use of the word on as opposed to of is significant because it foreshadows that a Ã¢ÂÂbetter Pip awaits withinÃ¢Â? (Vogel 96). Essentially, PipÃ¢ÂÂs transformation into a selfish snob is both temporary and superficial. His inward goodness is weakened, but not destroyed; in the end, it is strengthened enough to take over his conscience once again. Although MagwitchÃ¢ÂÂs sense of vengeance nearly destroys Pip, Ã¢ÂÂhis love is ultimately the agent of PipÃ¢ÂÂs redemptionÃ¢Â? (Buckley 49). When Pip is able show feeling for his convict, he demonstrates that he is a true gentleman:For now, my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously toward me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe. (Dickens 406)His existence as a gentleman, however, is not what he expects. Ironically, he achieves a more fulfilling status because he learns to value conscientious morality above financial prosperity.In the Victorian society, Ã¢ÂÂmoney is what counts, but making money is vulgar; a genteel young man must have wealth to begin with or acquire it passivelyÃ¢Â? (Dabney 137-38). Under these guidelines, Pip has no possibility of becoming a gentleman if he continues to work as a blacksmith under JoeÃ¢ÂÂs direction. Magwitch understands societyÃ¢ÂÂs necessitation that a gentleman be idle, and he Ã¢ÂÂlived rough, that [Pip] should live smooth; [he] worked hard, that [Pip] should be above workÃ¢Â? (Dickens 297). The opposing worlds of Satis House and the forge are contrasted throughout the novel. The forge is representative of a Ã¢ÂÂset of values [. . .] based on honest workÃ¢Â?; Satis House, on the other hand, is dominated by closure (Bradbury 52). These characteristics are also embodied in Joe and Miss Havisham who are presented as juxtaposing role models for Pip. Joe Ã¢ÂÂreorders any conventional scales of valuesÃ¢Â?; his values are based entirely on morality and are in no way influenced by the conventions of society (Bradbury 94). While Pip temporarily prefers the values of Miss Havisham and Estella, he eventually develops a Ã¢ÂÂmark of mature human valuesÃ¢Â? and longs to return to the forge and Joe (74).Mr. Wemmick is another character through which Dickens delivers a satire on society. Wemmick leads two completely different lives at work and at home. At work, he is uptight, serious, and stern; at home, he is carefree, jolly, and kindhearted. Dickens uses WemmickÃ¢ÂÂs multifaceted character to illustrate a preference for the qualities embodied in the moral life of Wemmick at his castle. Essentially, Wemmick is the Ã¢ÂÂperfect realization of the separation of private and public spheresÃ¢Â? (Newsom 153). Through WemmickÃ¢ÂÂs castle, Dickens intends to epitomize comfort, but also to proclaim that comfort necessarily must exist in alienation from the Victorian society. Therefore, as Pip discovers, true fulfillment cannot be attained in the midst of a superficial society.With PipÃ¢ÂÂs Ã¢ÂÂsincerity of confession [, Dickens] reenshrine[s] the social value of free human interaction, and reestablish[es] nonexploitative relatedness as the essence of what it means to be humanÃ¢Â? and therefore what is necessary to be a gentleman (Raina 127). By the end of the novel, Ã¢ÂÂPip (and Dickens) separate the word Ã¢ÂÂgentlemanÃ¢ÂÂ into its classless elements, the gentle man who, living by the Christian ideals of love and forgiveness, is the one type of gentlemanliness which the novel at the end unequivocally affirmsÃ¢Â? (Gilmour 143). PipÃ¢ÂÂs surpassing into gentlemanliness takes on an unexpected form, and he acquires a different identity than he anticipates. Ultimately, Pip becomes a different kind of gentleman than the one he aspires to become, and he is able to do so in spite of societyÃ¢ÂÂs intentions for him. Ironically, Pip discovers that the gentleman he has become is far better than the one he attempted to become. By the end of the novel, Pip recognizes true gentility as an Ã¢ÂÂunselfish respect for othersÃ¢Â? (Adrian 90). In doing so, Pip fulfills his Bildung and Dickens reinforces his preference for a moral conscience as a more important quality in a gentleman than social or financial prosperity.Works CitedAdrian, Arthur. Dickens and the Parent-Child Relationship. Athens: Ohio UP, 1984.Ayres, Brenda. Dissenting Women in DickensÃ¢ÂÂ Novels: The Subversion of Domestic Ideology. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1998.Bradbury, Nicola. Charles DickensÃ¢ÂÂ Great Expectations. Critical Studies of Key Texts. New York: St. MartinÃ¢ÂÂs P, 1990.Buckley, Jerome Hamilton. Season of Youth: The Bildungsroman from Dickens to Golding. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1974.Dabney, Ross. Love and Property in the Novels of Dickens. Berkeley: U of California P, 1967.Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. 1860-61. Ed. Janice Carlisle. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. New York: St. MartinÃ¢ÂÂs P, 1996. 23-439.Frank, Lawrence. Charles Dickens and the Romantic Self. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1984.Gilmour, Robin. The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981.Hardy, Barbara. The Moral Art of Dickens. New York: Oxford UP, 1970.Meckier, Jerome. Ã¢ÂÂGreat Expectations and Self-Help: Dickens Frowns on Smiles.Ã¢Â? Journal of English and Germanic Philology 100 (October 2001): 537-54.Newsom, Robert. Charles Dickens Revisited. New York: Twayne, 2000.Raina, Badri. Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1986.Said, Edward. Ã¢ÂÂTwo Commentaries on Great Expectations: From Deconstruction to Postcolonialism.Ã¢Â? Charles DickensÃ¢ÂÂ Great Expectations. Ed. Janice Carlisle. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. New York: St. MartinÃ¢ÂÂs P, 1996. 518-26.Vogel, Jane. Allegory in Dickens. University: U of Alabama P, 1977.
The fledgling years of post-industrial Britain were tumultuous ones, as are the beginnings of all eras that dismantle century-old beliefs and traditions. It was the advent of capitalism, signifying endless opportunities for wealth through industry and commerce. However, this new system also made immorality a common stepping-stone to success; crime, exploitation, and dishonesty became the tools of the nation’s trade. An absence of government regulation and thus an absence of limits brought prosperity to new heights, and suffering to new depths. While capitalism, glorified by philosophers such as Adam Smith, was a near-utopian structure in theory, the reality, particularly in London, was far from perfect. In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens criticizes the ideals of capitalism by depicting its plagues, actually and symbolically, in the lives of his characters. Through their fates and motives, the afflictions of the new socio-economic order become clear: the segregation of the classes, the erosion of morals, and the alienation of feelings.One of the most fundamental, most often-hailed principles of capitalism is that it affords everyone the equal opportunity to obtain wealth. This principle is fully embodied in Great Expectations; not a single character’s wealth has been derived from aristocratic ancestry. In fact, many of the wealthiest characters come from the dregs of society: Magwitch is an escaped convict, Estella is the daughter of a gypsy murderess, and Pip is a mere blacksmith’s apprentice. However, inequality is as ever-present as it was in the time when parentage determined rank—it is simply more random. Segregation between classes has not been abolished by any means. There still exists a majority of poor people, and they are treated as such. The reason for this is simply because capitalism relies on there always being a class of poor people for the rich to exploit. In Great Expectations, the poor are subjected to the contempt and manipulation of their financial betters, even though such elitists may have risen from the same plane. For instance, Estella, despite being a common orphan herself (or presumed to be at that point in the novel), looks down on Pip: “‘He calls the Knaves, Jacks, this boy!’ said Estella with disdain…’And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!'” (Dickens, 64) Indeed, most of Dickens’s characters are guilty of forgetting their roots, ignoring the shame of once being poor by inflicting that shame upon those less fortunate. Even Pip, the self-conscious narrator, deems Joe to be beneath him after a taste of wealth: “I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and less common, that he might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella’s reproach.” (Dickens, 108) Magwitch is also unjustly treated based on his class when he and Compeyson are convicted; because of his coarseness, he is dealt a sentence of fourteen years, while the gentlemanly Compeyson is only given seven. Through such discriminatory behaviours, Dickens illustrates not only the inequality, but also the hypocrisy, of capitalistic wealth.In Great Expectations, morality is often foregone in the pursuit of capital. In the former patriarchal model, religion reigned supreme; morality earned its reward in Heaven. In post-industrialist Britain, with a population of profiteers competing with each other, morality is seen to obstruct the gain of earthly rewards. Dickens shows Pip’s own moral struggle as he finds maturity in a city of swindlers and crooks. “‘You may get cheated, robbed, and murdered, in London. But there are plenty of people anywhere, who’ll do that for you…They’ll do it, if there’s anything to be got by it.'” (Dickens, 164-165) The theme of crime for the sake of profit is prevalent throughout Great Expectations, and embodied by two characters; Mr. Jaggers, and Compeyson. Mr. Jaggers, the shrewd, business-like lawyer, represents the distortion of justice brought about by capitalism. For the right price, he can talk a murderer out of receiving a death-sentence, conveying the idea that justice can be bought. Although Jaggers epitomizes the loss of conscience in a profiteering society, Compeyson represents its actual corruption. Despite being the man who sets the entire story in motion, shaping the lives of multiple characters, he is essentially faceless. Pip does not directly encounter him once throughout his narration, giving him more symbolic value than character status. His greed and immorality ruin some, such as Ms. Havisham, and bestow fortune upon others (though indirectly), such as Estella. In a way, he is like a twist on the “invisible hand” that Adam Smith theorized about, an unseen force that drives the economy. Another character who represents the link between morals and money is Herbert. He is portrayed as a true gentleman, one with no ill will towards anyone, and high moral standards. His marriage to Clara, despite her class, shows that he is unbiased and honourable. However, his qualities are also his hindrance, financially, as noted by Pip: “I had grand ideas of the wealth and importance of Insurers of Ships in the City, and I began to think with awe, of having laid a young Insurer on his back, blackened his enterprising eye, and cut his responsible head open. But, again, there came upon me…that odd impression that Herbert Pocket would never be very successful or rich.”(Dickens, 175) Thus, it is shown that a moral (self-dependent) capitalist is rarely a successful one. However, it must be noted that at the end of the novel, each character receives what they deserve for their morality, or lack thereof. It seems as though the immoral characters die, whereas the moral ones find happiness, showing that justice is ultimately delivered at the hands of providence.While immorality stems from a lack of conscience, the lack of conscience stems from an alienation from emotion. Throughout Great Expectations, there are conflicts between feelings and business, for while humans are inherently driven by emotion, money certainly is not. The two characters that best embody this conflict are Wemmick and Estella. They both subscribe to the belief that emotion makes one susceptible to predators, yet they exhibit this in different ways. Wemmick personifies the duality between success and feelings; he lives a double life. On one hand, he is Mr. Jaggers’s cold drone in the office, hollow but for profit, logic, and business. On the other, he is Pip’s affable friend, a man who enjoys the leisure of life at home with his father. Pip notices this double personality when Mr. Wemmick and he dine with Jaggers: “He turned his eyes on Mr. Jaggers whenever he raised them from the table, and was as dry and distant to me as if there were twin Wemmicks and this was the wrong one.” (Dickens, 363) Wemmick lives at Walworth, which he built to resemble a castle, with his father. His father is also an important symbol. The “Aged,” represents the former patriarchal model of governing the populace. Though still somewhat existent, its influence has been weakened considerably. The Aged lives in his castle, deaf to what is going on around him, and is content just to be nodded at every so often: “‘Here’s Mr. Pip, aged parent,’ said Wemmick, ‘and I wish you could hear his name. Nod away at him, Mr. Pip; that’s what he likes.’…I tipped him several more, and he was in great spirits.” (Dickens, 198) This is a parallel to the “aged” government, which merely resides in its castle for show, giving meaningless declarations from time to time, content to simply be acknowledged. Wemmick’s love and tenderness towards the Aged shows that he perhaps has a soft spot for the more simple, traditional ways of life. A necessity of eliminating sentiment in the business world is emphasized. Estella, on the other hand, has been raised to have no heart. Miss Havisham believes that to be heartless is the only way to avoid suffering, and so she teaches her charge to be cold and calculating. Miss Havisham’s way of protecting Estella has a double meaning, for not only did Compeyson break Miss Havisham’s heart, he also swindled her out of money. Thus having no feelings not only prevents heartache, it also prevents money from being lost to emotion: “You had taught her, from the dawn of her intelligence, with your utmost energy and might, that there was such a thing as daylight, but that it was made to be her enemy and destroyer, and she must always turn against it, for it had blighted you and would else blight her.” It is apparent that in this society obsessed with business and wealth, emotion is viewed not only as an obstacle, but as a traitor as well.Pip’s dramatic initiation into the world of commerce and crime is one that leads him into the discovery of his own morality and ambition. It also forces him to find a sustainable balance between the two, and to reconsider the beliefs and goals of his youth. Through the spectrum of characters that he encounters, from the most tarnished to the most unsullied, he is finally able to look beyond the marred expectations of society. Great Expectations illustrates that while the opportunities brought about by capitalism may have kindled aspiration in every member of the British populace, it also bred greed, corrupting the pursuits of many. Success is something to be striven for, especially when there are no limits imposed upon how high one can reach, but when it comes at the expense of humanity, one must question if it is really worth it.
“We have no choice, you and I, but to obey our instructions. We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I.” (265).The question of self-determination is central in Great Expectations. Dickens struggles to determine and express to what extent an individual person decides his own fate. This struggle is represented in the lives of two orphans, Pip and Estella, who are searching for their own identities. Both are heavily influenced by other characters, in particular their respective benefactors. The difference between them lies in whether this influence comes only from the benefactor, or if it is internalized, and they are shaped by their own psyches as well. While both Pip and Estella are shaped by other people and by circumstances in Great Expectations, and to an extent find comfort in this subservience, this control is far more encompassing for Estella. Estella is shaped emotionally so that another determines her very character and identity. Pip, however, is controlled more externally, and has more power to think independently and form his own character and central identity, allowing him a greater potential for moral redemption in the end of the novel.Estella is a person who has been turned completely into an instrument of revenge. Miss Havisham, in her attempt to assert control and strike back for the wrongs done to her, turns this desire to into a total control over a little girl, saying “I adopted her to be loved. I bred her and educated her, to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might be loved. Love her!” (240). In the world in which Estella was raised, even play and love, those basic shapers of character in young children, were orchestrated. Estella was shaped against love, Miss Havisham “stole her heart away and put ice in its place” (399), and love becomes something Estella can’t understand. Miss Havisham seems surprised by the degree to which she has determined Estella’s identity when she realizes that the woman she has created is incapable of love even towards her adopted mother.Estella exhibits this concept that her life is not her own consistently throughout the novel. She often assumes an attitude and behavior that does not seem to be of her own making. Says Pip, “You speak of yourself as if you were someone else.”(266). It seems, however, that she is assuming this role of her own will. Estella has so internalized the control exercised over her, that she is shaping herself to completion. She seems acutely aware of this control, telling Miss Havisham “I am what you made meI must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.” (304-306). Later she explains to Pip how she cannot escape from this construction, telling him “It is in my natureIt is in the nature formed within me.” (362). Estella is made an unnatural person because of the influence of how she has been shaped.Pip is influenced by a long list of masters, including Mrs. Joe, Estella, Joe, Jaggers, and Magwitch. With so many influences it is difficult to see to what extent he is controlling his own destiny. His earliest shaping came from his abuse from Mrs. Joe. This abuse led to feelings of self-loathing and criminality, and he does internalize this connection to crime. The humorous presentation of these incidents of abuse, however, emphasizes Pip’s autonomy beyond them. In the first pages of the novel we see Pip wandering the marshes, and can already see that he has more freedom through his gender than Estella, who remained trapped in Miss Havisham’s old house.Joe serves as a moral example for Pip. Joe respects and acknowledges his own nature, telling Pip “I’m wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th’meshes.” (224). Through example he encourages Pip to retain some independent identity. Joe’s influence on Pip can be clearly seen at the beginning in his compassion toward the convict. When Pip meets the convict, he describes himself as “Pitying his desolation” (19), just as Joe later tells Magwitch “We don’t know what you have done, but we wouldn’t have you starved to death for it, poor miserable fellow-creatur.” (40). Joe through this is a gentle moral influence on Pip, versus an aggressive shaping influence, like his wife.Miss Havisham and Magwitch are aggressive influencing forces on Pip’s life. He is physically molded into what they want to see, and like Estella becomes an instrument of another’s desires. Miss Havisham desires a dancing playing boy, and makes him engage in those actions. She forces him into his “coarse common” (92) class identity. Magwitch wants a gentleman and so constructs him as one, saying “‘If I ain’t a gentleman, nor yet ain’t got no learning, I’m the owner of such'” (321). Both of these, however, represent a physical identity change only.The most influential shaping of Pip occurs through Magwitch and, more specifically, the great expectations imparted on Pip by him. With these expectations, Pip takes on an identity of a gentleman as he sees it. In this identity he becomes increasingly concerned with appearances. Pip becomes like Herbert, who “still rather confounded his intention with his execution.” (176). Pip also, however, realizes the constraints of money, and comes to see how it is reducing his control over his own destiny, saying “What I was chained to, and how heavily, became intelligible to me” (331). Through money he is owned, as Estella is owned through affection and money. Estella is not treated with love, and so does not give love to others. Pip too is objectified and so begins to form all of his relationships in this way, treating Joe and Biddy as objects at his disposal. The main contrast between Pip and Estella in this respect is in Pip’s power to resist this ownership construction of social relations. All Pip has to do is detract himself from the money that binds him. He is less a helpless victim, and gladly enters into and remains within the collective fantasy of his gentleman identity.Jaggers, through his frequent assertations of separation from the lives he deals with and his regular hand washing to wash away his connection with what he does, imposes some influence on Pip, teaching him to avoid responsibility. Pip acts in alignment with this teaching in his monetary affairs in respect to the debts that he accrues, and in his affective ties in his abandonment of Joe, but he recoils from it morally, showing his maintained autonomy of moral thought. Pip further shows his ability of self-determination in his reflections on the influences that shape him and their negative results. “As I had grown accustomed to my expectations, I had insensibly begun to notice their effect upon myself Their influence on my own character I knew very well that it was not all good.” (272). He also reflects on how he has been shaping himself. “All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretences did I cheat myself.” (225). Pip is able to escape from a complete internalization of the shaping influences upon him by realizing these influences and their effects on him before they are set in his character. Pip, unlike Estella, has the luxury of an identity crises. The independent identity he is holding onto runs against the identities imposed on him by others (which he enters into willingly), leading him to question in what role he really fits. In the social environment in which he lives, a person cannot be a blacksmith, scholar, and gentleman together, and so he struggles to form himself between these.Both Pip and Estella seem to find some comfort in their submission. In submission they are given the identity that they seek, and have a connection to others. Pip willingly ties himself to Jaggers and to his benefactor, though this is only a new form of servitude, and one that proves to be more encompassing than the servitude to class in which he was constrained at the forge. Even when he escapes from submission to his gentleman status, it is for a new, happy submission back at the forge, where he says contentedly of Joe “I was to submit myself to all his orders.” (464). He also eagerly puts himself in a subservient position to Estella, following her around to let her disdain and control him, describing “The air of completeness and superiority with which she walked at my side, and the air of youthfulness and submission with which I walked at hers” (237). Estella also seems to seek subservience. She forms her entire identity in submission to Miss Havisham, and is totally shaped by her servitude. However, instead of seeking to free herself, she binds herself in a subservient role to Drummle when she marries him. After being controlled their entire lives, both Pip and Estella find comfort in the familiarity of submission to the will of another.When, at the end of the novel, both Pip and Estella are relieved of the controlling influences upon them, Pip is more able than Estella to morally redeem himself because of the difference in how they have been shaped. Pip recovers his morality by reverting to his independent agency and self-created identity. But even though Miss Havisham is dead, Estella will forever be trapped in the mind she created. Financial control can be broken away from for moral redemption, but complete dependence and emotional control is binding beyond death. Pip had Joe to help counteract the negative shaping and to teach him how to form his own character, but for Estella the parent that she was utterly dependent on for love was the one that sought to control her. Pip’s moral redemption occurs when he returns to compassion, realizing that life is more than just class. Through this he earns the moral stature of a gentleman. It occurs when “in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionatelytowards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe.” (446). Estella’s moral corruption went far beyond just falling for the seductions of money. She gains some redemption in her final humbled scene, but she can never escape from who she was made into.Both Pip and Estella were shaped greatly in their identities in Great Expectatitons. Pip, however, was shaped in a way to allow for independent thought, while Estella’s whole being was bound up in the will of others. The similarity of their orphan’s plight drew them together. Both found themselves trapped in “a long chain of iron or gold” (72), but one stark difference remained between them. Estella’s shaping by Miss Havisham was so complete that she was incapable of love. Pip in the end asserts that he is an independent creature, while Estella remains the lady Miss Havisham constructed her into. People are constantly shaping each other in the world of Great Expectations, some, like Pip, are able to extract themselves, but like Estella, many others fall victim to this ongoing social construction of identity.Work CitedDickens, Charles. Great Expectations.
The forms that stand in closest competition with those undergoing modification and improvement will naturally suffer most.–Darwin, The Origin of the Species (1859) Christopher Ricks poses the question, in his essay on Dickens’ Great Expectations, “How does Pip [the novel’s fictional narrator] keep our sympathy?” (Ricks 202). The first of his answers to this central inquiry are: the fact that Pip is “ill-treated by his sister Joe and by all the visitors to the house” and that Pip “catches” his unrequited lover, Estella’s, “infectious contempt for his commonness” (Ricks 202). In answering like this, Ricks immediately assumes a dichotomous contrast between the natural human and the taught (acted-upon) human. Ricks is saying that the natural Pip is good and therefore holds the reader’s sympathy while the manipulated Pip is bad and behaves in ways with which the reader cannot sympathize, and wants to condemn. The reader sides with the basic Pip and blames not him, but his circumstances and others, for his problematic conduct.The abbreviated childhood narratives that many of the novel’s characters provide support this loaded nature / nurture division, in which nature is the base and nurture is the skewed corruption of that base. The reader sympathizes with and is intrigued by the stories the characters tell of their childhoods because the stories easily explain why these people act as they do, and render excuses for them when they act maliciously. Children act according to the way they are raised so as to remedy and balance out the past, and their basic good nature only re-emerges after that task has been completed. Miss Havisham, the novel’s schadenfreud terrorist, “was a spoilt child. Her mother died when she was a baby and her father denied her nothing” (Dickens 165). Thus, when she grows up to want a particular man and doesn’t get him, she becomes, quite literally, stuck at that point in time (twenty minutes to nine) until she balances the scales by “breaking” Pip’s “heart” with her adopted daughter, Estella. Miss Havisham’s brother, Arthur, who grew up under similar circumstances (dead mother, same father) “turned out riotous, extravagant, undutiful — altogether bad” (Dickens 166). He is so used to getting everything that he wants that when his father denies him a large inheritance he essentially steals it from his sister with the help of her ill-meaning fiancé, Compeyson. The young Estella falls into this mold also. When Miss Havisham asks her for love, Estella responds, “if you ask me to give you what you never gave me, my gratitude and duty cannot do impossibilities” (Dickens 279). She cannot love because Miss Havisham denied her that in raising her, and therefore poor Estella enters into a loveless relationship with Drummle that causes her to suffer. Only after this can she begin to engage with an actual heart. The characters residing on the other end of the economic spectrum surrender to the same pattern. Magwitch explains that he was “brought up to be… a warmint” by his indifferent environment (Dickens 301). He cannot remember ever having adults looking out for him and so he had to steal in order to preserve his life. Like Miss Havisham, he changes when he balances the scales by giving Pip the money and help he never had, and getting love in return. We don’t know how or by whom Orlick, Mrs. Joe’s aggressor and Pip’s would-be murderer, was raised, and the lack of this knowledge is what allows the reader to view him as so utterly vicious.The importance of nurture on the adult human doesn’t just hold for the novel’s antagonists, it may equally be applied to its protagonists. Joe gives a diplomatic account of his youth to Pip in front of the fire toward the beginning of the book. He tells us that his father “hammered away at my mother most onmerciful… [and] hammered at me with a wigour only to be equaled by the wigour with which he didn’t hammer at his anvil” (Dickens 44). In order to balance things out in his adult life, he intentionally enters into a relationship wherein the woman abuses the man. His relationship with Pip’s sister is the complement to his parents’ relationship, much as Pip’s relationship with Estella concludes Miss Havisham’s relationship with Compeyson. Even Mrs. Pocket, who we don’t see much, we know to have “been brought up from her cradle… as one who must marry a title, and who was to be guarded from the acquisition of plebeian domestic knowledge.” As a result she “had grown up highly ornamental, but perfectly helpless and useless” (Dickens 174). It is “perfectly” for it is exactly what was intended, and the only suitable ending to such a start.The natural aspect of each character is good, while the nurtured manipulation is bad. The way the narrator uses the words “natural” and unnatural” in his descriptions of people supports this. He consistently describes his best friend, Herbert Pocket (173), Herbert’s betrothed, Clara (343), his helpful tutor, Mr. Pocket (173), and Joe (259) as “natural.” “I use the word ‘natural,'” he tells us, “in the sense of its being unaffected” — “unaffected,” that is, by corrupting hands, like those of Mrs. Joe and Miss Havisham (Dickens 173). Correspondingly, he describes those he doesn’t like using the word “unnatural.” All the players of the Hamlet production, for example, fall into this category, including the Jewish theater man who takes Pip to see Wopsle and Wopsle himself (235). Collaborating with this sense that nature is good is the outright improper use of the notion of “bad nature” by the novel’s same narrator. The only time such a thing is mentioned is by Pip in relation to Biddy. “It’s a bad side of human nature,” he says to her (Dickens 139) when he projects onto her that she is jealous of his leaving her and Joe behind to go off to his “great expectations.” It is clear immediately that Pip is not right in accusing her of having these feelings, and when he comes back and tells her of them again, saying, “This really is a very bad side of human nature!” (Dickens 261), it is even more evident that he is entirely off-base. In the end, his melodramatic apology to her for his disloyalty shows that he too understands that the phrase was inappropriate. The fact that this is the only time the concept comes up, though it seems relevant to actually malevolent characters like Orlick, Compeyson, and Drummle, shows that Dickens is dismissing its validity as a concept. He leaves us only with the notion of good nature.However, while it seems explicitly that the good lays with nature, the bad with unbalanced nurture, Dickens’ underlying message is more complicated. There is a Darwinian undercurrent to the development of our primary blossoming heroes. Evolution is, of course, natural, but is simultaneously acted out by nurturers: it is both. The critic, John Schad, says that Dickens describes Pip’s unknown patron, the convict Abel Magwitch, who instigates Pip’s evolution from a blacksmith to a gentleman as “Nature” itself: Pip is visited by a man [Magwitch], or rather a nature – ‘hardened’, as he is, ‘by exposure to weather’, indistinguishable in voice from the wind and rain, and as repugnant ‘as… a snake’ or ‘terrible beast’ – that subsequently proves to know itself in exactly the same way as it knows the outside world: ‘I know’d my name to be Magwitch…. How did I know it? Much as I know’d the bird’s names in the hedges’. (Schad 66)Likewise, Schad states that Pip, when visited by Magwitch on this same revealing occasion, finds to his horror that it is this ‘dunghill dog… beast… [or] snake’ who has ‘made a gentleman’ of him, that it is – as Pip declares – a ‘creature who [has] made me’ and that therefore he has, as it were, a natural history… [an] animal genealogy within which he is just the latest generation. (Schad 73)Pip is a product of literary evolution (that is to say, the process acted out in a singular life). He moves to a higher stratus in society by an act of personified nature, and then is knocked down to yet another stratus by the same personification. In this one scene, the reader sees how Nature itself, in the body of Magwitch, both brings him into his new life as gentleman and out of that life.Mr. Jaggers indicates that there is an evolutionary strain in Estella’s life as well. This time he, like Magwitch with Pip, plays Nature. When Pip tells Mr. Jaggers of Estella’s odd parentage. Jaggers responds with his story of putting Estella under Miss Havisham’s care, speaking of himself in the third person. “Put the case that,” Jaggers begins, “he [Mr. Jaggers] lived in an atmosphere of evil, and that all he saw of children was, their being generated in great numbers for certain destruction… Put the case that here was one pretty little child [Estella] out of the heap who could be saved” (Dickens 377). Here, Jaggers describes a landscape of children in competition with one another and the environment for life. Jaggers himself is the natural selection that saves one and lets the others perish, perhaps, even, because of her “prettiness.”After Pip has undergone his two evolutions: from blue-collar worker to gentleman, and from gentleman to white-collar, he emerges, like his burned arm, “disfigured, but fairly serviceable” (Dickens 380). It would be ridiculous to say that fire is any less a part of nature than the arm itself, and this is a physical metaphor for the influences that others have had on Pip. Nurture (the others, the fire) is an element of nature, it is not separate from it. That is why Dickens uses evolutionary language to describe the changes Pip and Estella undergo — evolution itself is integral to nature, change is integral to essence. Human nature is not stagnant. The scene in which Estella finally rejects Pip epitomizes this. Speaking of her lack of feelings, Estella states, “It [the lack] is in the nature formed within me” (331, emphasis added). One normally thinks of nature as something set in stone from birth onward, immovable and unchangeable. However, Dickens’ work points out the artificiality of setting human behavior apart from nature’s larger plan. It is not a binary system operating on Pip in Great Expectations, it is singularly natural. Estella, and others, are not born with a certain nature, but rather grow into it, much as in the evolutionary process monkeys turned to humans over time.Furthermore, the aspects of evil (or bad) Dickens gives some of his characters are appealing to the reader because they are complicated and interesting. We are curious as to the reasons Orlick commits heinous acts, but we are not curious as to why Biddy is kind. Hereby Dickens communicates that the purely good characters he portrays are perhaps not the best after all. He conveys this deeper message not through common Victorian pedantic means wherein the good characters win happiness. Like his contemporary, George Eliot does in her novels Silas Marner and Adam Bede, Dickens uses a marriage-ending for his unwaveringly good ones, Biddy and Joe. But, in addition to that, he reveals a deeper flaw in their seemingly perfect attitudes to the reader by making his reader feel bored by them. As Ricks says, “Joe and Biddy, despite all their occasional vividness, remain characters sadly insubstantial” (Ricks 208). While I disagree with him about the two part influence on the creation of human beings, I agree with him here. We like hearing about those characters who contain some ‘bad.’ And, that is another way to recommend a certain type of lifestyle, for who wants to be boring? Again, Dickens undermines the duality implied by the ‘essence vs. communally created human’ world. Biddy and Joe are the good ones, but they are boring. Others, like Magwitch and Miss Havisham are bad, but are interesting. Thus, Dickens’ recommendation to us, his readers, is convoluted. He does not make a clear suggestion or paint an ideal. Accordingly, the superficial claim I made earlier in my essay about nature being closer to good and nurture being closer to bad in Dickens’ novel is even more debunked. Not only is the nature / nurture line nonexistant, but the bad / good line is too. Though the connection seems to exist at first glance, a more thorough look shows that there are actually no distinctions to be made at all.Unfortunately, I think that what Dickens leaves his reader with after stripping away these polarities is mere plot. By having his characters so intermingled with their circumstances as to incorporate their selves into them, the novel becomes simply a series of events. Miss Havisham asks Estella “Are you tired of me?” and Estella replies, “Only a little tired of myself” (Dickens 279). Estella has no self and so all the intrigue of personal dilemma and development disappears. Even Miss Havisham is not a self, but is only the blunt response to rejection. This extreme example is representative of all the characters in Great Expectations. They are not subjects; they are objects in a world of pure, artless evolution.BibliographyDickens, Charles. Great Expectations. London: Penguin, 1994.Ricks, Christopher, “Great Expectations,” from Dickens and the Twentieth Century. Ed. John Gross and G. Pearson, 1966. pp. 199-211.Schad, John. The Reader in the Dickensian Mirrors. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
Within Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, Joe Gargery is presented as the epitome of human compassion and kindness, the moral center of the novel. He is a strange mixture of wisdom, stupidity and generosity, being the most human of all the characters with his strengths and weaknesses, which the readers grasp by reading between the lines of Pip’s description, Joe’s own actions and his interactions. ‘Joe’ is a common name, and Dickens’ clever play with nomenclature instantly makes us see Joe as a short, simple and common man. Dickens’ has presented Joe as a paradox, ‘a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness’, having a gentle nature that contradicts the toughness the blacksmith requires for his job. He is described as physically strong, nevertheless, we are made to see how he suffers through his wife’s physical abuse.
Joe’s manner of speaking indicates his slow brain and illiteracy, calling epileptic fits ‘purple leptic’ and taking time with his speech. His dullness and stupidity is apparent when he keeps talking, stunned by the disappearance of Pip’s bread, staring at him in ‘wonder and consternation’. However, the fact that he is aware that Mrs. Joe won’t be happy if he becomes a scholar for fear he might rise, shows that he isn’t dull in all accounts. He is aware of Mrs. Joe’s harsh personality, yet calls her a ‘fine figure of a woman’ repeatedly, seeing the positive side of her that chose to raise Pip by hand. His statement that ‘it were lonesome then’ and ‘living here alone’ implies that loneliness might have driven him to get married and he seems to have consciously made a decision to tolerate Mrs. Joe rough treatment.
Through his actions towards Pip, Joe is shown to be a generous and kind character, taking in a boy he isn’t even related to by blood. Being a blacksmith, it is apparent that Joe is of a low working-class and doesn’t earn as much, yet he tell Pip’s sister to ‘bring the poor little child’ with her and that ‘there’s room for him at the forge!’ Joe wishes he could take the Tickler ‘all on myself’ for Pip and we see how much love and care he has for him. He is a nurturing figure, lecturing Pip about ‘Bolting’ as he is concerned for his ‘elth’ and taking Pip on his back when it started sleeting during their search of the convicts. Joe’s morality is apparent when he reproves Pip for ‘bolting’ the bread, and it seems to influence Pip, which is why he feels guilty and ‘tenderness of conscience’ only in reference to Joe. Joe is an emotionally strong character, considering how he was able to cope with a dysfunctional family as a child, and now with his wife’s verbal attacks. He is able to take in the emotional blows without breaking down.
Enduring Mrs. Joe’s abusive treatment also indicates how he is a submissive man with no ego or power. He loves Pip yet he never stand up for him against Mrs. Joe. We take this as cowardice in his part, however, later, when Dickens has Joe tell his own story, we are made to realize and understand what drives Joe. He endures as much as he does for he is ‘dead afeerd of not doing what’s right by a woman’, not wanting to hurt Mrs. Joe and not have her ‘drudging and slaving like his mother. This shows his sweet temperament, tenderness and the respect he has for women. Joe is a truly compassionate man, even towards the convict who admits to stealing food from his home. Joe says that the convict is ‘welcome to it’ and that ‘we wouldn’t have you starved’ no matter what his crime. His attitude towards the memory of his father is rather naïve and blind for even though he ‘hammered’ him, he believes his father ‘were that good in his hart’. Nonetheless, it points out the nobility of his character and forgiveness. Joe’s powerlessness and submissiveness is evident in many occasions when he is unable to protect Pip from Mrs. Joe’s beating, only able to ‘quietly’ fence him after he’s been thrown at him, when ‘he had been put upon the kitchen doorstep’, and when he can only offer Pip comfort by giving him gravy, not even chicken.
On one hand, Joe is presented as a weak character, but besides his tender heart, we are shown other good qualities as well. In his working clothes, Joe is a ‘characteristic-looking blacksmith’ while in his Sunday’s best, he is compared to a scarecrow, which depicts how Joe is comfortable in his blacksmith clothes for he is unpretentious, and not hypocritical. He does as he is told when the soldiers barge in and tell him to fix the handcuff, but there are two viewpoints to this; one that he is obedient and easily dragged about, however in a good light, we see him the sharpest and most professional looking at this point of the story, hardworking and skilled.
‘Eating and drinking are valued by Dickens as proofs of sociability and ceremonies of love.’ Discuss the significance of food and meals in the novel Great Expectations.
Throughout the novel Great Expectations, numerous meals which have symbolic resonance repeatedly take place. This essay will argue that the meal in the novel is a recurring motif with three primary functions. Firstly, they are indeed ceremonies of love or dark manifestations of the absence of love. Next, the motif of the meal also symbolizes power, which is achieved through social relations. Finally, the meal is a rite of passage which marks new beginnings, or milestones in the life of Dickens’ characters.
Meals and food are indeed ‘ceremonies of love.’ When it functions as a ceremony of love, the meal motif comes to represent the extension of grace to those who do not deserve it. This is evident in the meal Pip brings for the escaped convict Magwitch. Despite Magwitch never asking for it, Pip presents him with a ‘beautiful round compact pork pie’ stolen from Mrs. Joe’s pantry, which becomes the centrepieve of the meal. This pie is far more than what Magwitch had demanded for his basic sustenance, and thus is a symbol of grace or the extension of undeserved love. The ‘round’ image of the pie also suggests wholeness and therefore ascribes a restorative quality to the meal as a whole. More than that, the pie is baked for Mrs. Joe’s Christmas meal, which symbolically includes Magwitch in the Christmas meal of Pip’s family. The biblical allusion of Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus Christ, further suggests the extension of undeserved grace to the convict Magwitch. Therefore, the meal which saves Magwitch’s life and symbolically accords him more than he deserves cements the role of a meal as a ceremony of love.
However, the meal motif also comes to represent the converse of love, or loveless-ness. This is most evident in the decaying remnants of Miss Havisham’s wedding feast, which represent the denial or reversal of the ideal of perfect love. The ‘long table with a tablecloth spread on it, as if a feast had been in preparation’ repels rather than draws all living creatures, as even spiders which run ‘home to it’ instantly ‘run out of it.’ Such anthropomorphism demonstrates that even animals which are most comfortable with decay, such as spiders, cannot bear the presence of the long table. This in turn morphs the table into a symbol of love denied, by reversing the traditional symbolism of a meal as an event that draws life and company. Thus, the meal motif represents both the presence and absence of love in Great Expectations.
The meal is also used to highlight the power disparities apparent in Victorian society. As the meal is a social event, the interactions of characters during mealtime easily show which characters are able to exercise power over the others. This is evident during the meal Pip shares with Mr. Wopsle and the Gargery family. Here, Wopsle conjectures about the moral worth of Pip had he been born a ‘four-footed squeaker,’ or pig. This is juxtapositioned against the ‘pork’ the guests are eating. The result is an instance of zoomorphism which metaphorically transforms Pip into the pig that is being eaten, reducing him to total powerlessness in the face of the all-powerful adults. In this way, the meal resonates symbolically with the social humiliation children suffer at the hands of more powerful adults. The theme of power is even clearer in the dinner at Jaggers’ house. In this meal, the social interaction at the dinner is completely under the control of Jaggers, who can manipulate the social world a lot more skillfully than his guests. For instance, Jaggers ‘wound’ Drummle ‘up to a pitch little short of ferocity’ about the muscularity of his arm through ‘some invisible agency,’ causing the whole table to begin ‘baring and spanning our arms in a ridiculous manner.’ The ‘invisible agency’ here is clearly a use of exaggeration to refer to Jaggers’ manipulation of language to get others to do his bidding, and Dickens uses the mild comic effect of the flexing competition among his guests to exhibit the power of social expectations to control behaviour. This exercise of Jaggers’ social power cements the link between meals and power in Great Expectations. Therefore, meals come to highlight the power of social expectations and conversation in Victorian England to shape behaviour.
Finally, the meal motif in Great Expectations serves as a rite of passage, marking points where the life of main characters is transformed. This effect is achieved through the use of narrative structure. As such, the first meal Pip has with Magwitch is a ceremony of selflessness whose power is revealed later in the novel, when Magwitch is revealed as Pip’s benefactor. As such, the meal marks a turning point in Pip’s life, because his ‘Great Expectations’ would have remained unfulfilled without it. Similarly, the final meal in the novel is a symbol of Pip’s return to his origins, from his great expectations. This meal clearly shows the social distance he has traveled, and his reconciliation with his roots. While he refuses to eat ‘watercresses’ or ‘the simple fruits of the Earth,’ an image suggesting his humble origins, he accepts ‘the bread-and-butter.’ As an image of the food that is sufficient for day-to-day sustenance, the bread and butter indicates Pip’s acceptance of simplicity and a new work ethic, in contrast to the inflated expectations of his past. Therefore, this final meal marks his return to modest expectations, thus cementing the role of meals as rites of passage.
These manifestations of the meal motif has strong biblical overtones, as it is reminiscent of the Last Supper. Similarly to the meals in Great Expectations, the Last Supper is a ceremony of love as well as of power, and marks the final communion between Jesus and his disciples before the Crucifiction. The Christian audience of Dickens’ works would have been intimately familiar with biblical lore, lending the meal motif even greater power. In conclusion, it is therefore fair to say that meals in Great Expectations are ceremonies of love, but also function as markers of the absence of love, social power and as writes of passage which demarcate crucial sections of the narrative.
A key theme in both Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles is cruelty. Both authors treat this cruelty in such a way as to expose the flaws of a society in which the powerful, either in terms of class, physical strength, or otherwise, prey on those without power. Both novels are examples of bildungsroman’s which focus on young characters, such as Pip and Tess, coming of age and growing into adults. As bildungsroman’s, the theme of cruelty becomes ever more prominent, as it is also used to highlight the effects of cruelty on the development and maturing of these children.
One of the principle factors which influenced the distribution of power in the early nineteenth century was social class, a dividing force which remained even through the increasing forces of industrial modernity. In Great Expectations, the dominant example of the upper classes’ cruel treatment of the lower classes is perhaps seen between the characters of Compeyson and Magwitch. The cruelty of Compeyson, who corners Magwitch into acting as his “black slave”, culminates in his denial of guilt and accusations of Magwitch when the two are arrested for their illegal activities. He uses Magwitch, who is labelled by Compeyson’s defence counsellor as “ill bought up”, as a scapegoat for his own wrongdoing. The depiction of this powerful and rich man’s cruelty against a disproportionately poor and powerless man not only condemns Compeyson as a figurehead of the upper classes, but also expands into a condemnation of society as a whole. The means through which this is achieved is the portrayal of Compeyson as not only scapegoating Magwitch, but of him actually being legally afforded to do so. His reduced sentence is due not to any true evidence in his favour, but simply due to the observation that he is a man who has been “well bought up” as a member of society’s wealthy. It is on this basis alone that the guilty Compeyson is “recommended to mercy on account of good character and bad company”, while the far less guilty in comparison Magwitch has “been done everything to, pretty well – except hanged”. Dickens’s depiction of the benefit of the upper classes at the expense of the lower classes successfully reflects the cruelty of judicial corruption and gaping wealth gaps between the rich and the poor which was rife during the industrial revolution in early nineteenth century England. As the poor were exploited through hard labour and threat of cruelty, the rich took advantage of their position within the system of capitalism in order to increase their own economic gain. Kenneth Harris supports and highlights this as he argues that “the Industrial revolution…had released forces of greed, cruelty and selfishness which had rendered society ugly in aspect and materialistic in outlook”.
Hardy’s novel is similarly heavy with the theme of the lower classes being cruelly exploited for the profit of the upper classes, albeit in a different manner. Unlike Great Expectations’ Compeyson, who uses Magwitch’s unrewarded criminal labour for his own financial profit in the true spirit of the industrial revolution, Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ Alec d’Urberville uses Tess’s body for his own sexual and physical profit. Kevin Swafford supports this idea of class based division and cruelty as he argues that “because of the very nature of the social structure and relations created within the narrative, Tess is essentially conceived and treated as property or potential exchange value”. Indeed, the social structure he refers to is that of Capitalism with the same wealth gap present as in the setting of Great Expectations. However, in addition to a portrayal of the cruelty of those with power to those without it, Hardy also portrays a society in which the powerless will be cruel to others who are powerless in order to gain the power they lack.
In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, we see Tess’s own father forcing Tess into the firing line of the spoilt and narcissistic Alec’s mindless desire, in the hope of gaining a title of recognition. Similarly, Great Expectations shows Pip, who is for the most part the moral centre of the novel, as showing signs of the capability to be cruel in order to fight his way up to the peak of the contemporary capitalist system, as he breaks Biddy’s heart and begins to treat Joe as if he is below him. In this sense, both novels reflect the developments of the industrial revolution. The social structure, although still defined largely by a wide class gap, began to lose its rigidity as it became possible for people to migrate between classes through means other than blood and birth right.
In the case of Great Expectations, another group which is shown to inflict cruelty on a less powerful group is the adult on the child. As a bildungsroman, the novel focusses largely on the impact of a cruel, unjust society on the growing up and coming of age of the societies youngest members. In Great Expectations, Pip and Estella are the key examples of children who are victims of the cruelty of adults who abuse their power. The former is shown to have grown up in the shadow of his cruel sister’s violence, who takes her anger and discontentment out on her physically smaller and weaker brother. The young Pip himself refers to her as his “all-powerful sister”, delineating his defencelessness in the face of her intimidation. The latter suffers a different kind of cruelty, as it is psychological rather than physical. Miss Havisham adopts a poor, innocent child and skews her perception of the world, of other people, and of her own emotions. Estella herself highlights the way in which her defencelessness and innocence are taken advantage of as she tells Pip that “[he] had not [his] little wits sharpened by their intriguing against [him], suppressed and defenceless – [she] did”. Nicolas Tredell supports the presence of adults using their power to inflict cruelty as he labels the novel as one which is “concerned with the interaction of painful and vivid individual experience with particular kinds of social order in which adults have largely unchecked power over children”. Indeed, Dickens uses these child-guardian dynamics of his characters to draw attention to the rampant exploitation of children and lack of concern over blatant child abuse in early nineteenth century England.
Meanwhile, in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the young Tess is taken advantage of less due to her physical defenselessness, but rather more due to her mental innocence. James Gibson highlights Alec’s exploitation of Tess’s childlike naivety as he argues that “he takes advantage of Tess’s innocence and vulnerability, and such a relationship is seen by Hardy as wholly deplorable”. Indeed, Hardy portrays Alec as a mindlessly cruel character, who allows his basal sexual desires to overrule his morality, while contrastingly portraying Tess as a far more humanized character as we see her suffering and understand the roots of her final act of violence. This is particularly evident as Hardy questions “why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, practically blank as snow as yet, there should have been traced such a course pattern as it was doomed to receive”. This epitomizes the cruelty of Alec’s destruction of Tess’s virginity and innocence, as the “blank as snow” canvas is horribly marred by her sexual assault. Therefore, Gibson’s observation that Hardy views the persecution of the weak by the powerful as unjust and condemnable carries substantial weight in light of the clear emergence of Tess as a sympathetic character at least and a blameless victim at most.
It is tempting to argue that, in contrast to the surface appearance of the powerless being prayed on by the cruelty of the powerful, the powerless are sometimes shown to fight back against their aggressors or abusers and gain the upper hand. In Hardy’s novel, Tess successfully inflicts an even greater brutality onto her rapist than he had inflicted on her. Similarly, Miss Havisham sets out on a similar course of revenge as she rears Estella to help her break hearts just as hers was once broken. However, unlike Tess who wreaks vengeance on the same man who hurt her, Havisham generalizes her brother and ex-lover’s cruelty towards her as the entire male gender’s cruelty. To this end, she achieves her goal to an extent, as she breaks Pip’s heart who tells her that he “is as unhappy as [she] can ever have meant [him] to be”. However, ultimately both characters receive equally horrific punishments for their revenge against those who wronged them. Sara Thornton highlights this fact in the case of Miss Havisham as she suggests that “it is Miss Havisham’s devouring and cruel qualities which link her to other fiery and dangerous women destined for destruction in Dickens…their ‘fire’ comes from the same self-consuming fire of revenge which slowly burns in Miss Havisham”. Indeed, her fixation of vengeance ultimately leads indirectly to her death, as she begs for Pip’s forgiveness and accidentally sets herself on fire in the process. This can be seen as symbolic of the self-destructive nature of seeking justice against cruelty. Similarly, Tess’s violent stand against Alec is followed by her subsequent execution by hanging as her life is taken as payment for his. The message here is clear; the victim cannot hope to gain the upper hand over the cruelty of their abuser without having to accept unforgivingly harsh consequences without any allowances for the suffering which led them to vengeance. Joseph Caroll highlights the unfairness of this as he states that “When Tess of the d’Urbervilles is hanged for stabbing her rapist to death, Hardy explicitly protests against some cosmic principle of injustice”. Yvonne Kozlovsky underpins this injustice as she argues that “the idea that Tess was a victim of injustice was anathema to Britain’s conservative, moralistic censors: as a member of the lower classes, they thought, death became her”. This assertion brings us back to the aforementioned point of injustice amongst social classes. Tess is a working class female, rendering her suffering far less important than that of her upper class, male rapist.
Furthermore, in Great Expectations, Dickens portrays the occurrence of human cruelty as a cycle, with victims of cruelty and abuse eventually developing to become perpetrators themselves. The primary example of this cycle of cruelty can be seen through the character of Miss Havisham, a woman so damaged by her abandonment and defraudment at the hands of the man she loved that she all but dedicates her life to inflicting the same cruelty onto the entirety of the male gender. However, the true victim of Miss Havisham’s cruelty is her adopted daughter Estella, who is forced to endure emotional and psychological abuse is order to mould her into the perfect tool for revenge. Indeed, Havisham herself tells Pip that she “stole her heart away, and put ice in its place”. Here, the repercussions of cruelty against children for their development and coming of age are clearly underlined. Every aspect of Estella’s psychological and emotional development is warped by her cruel upbringing, including her empathy, her morality and her capability to love. Estella admits to Pip that “it seems…that there are sentiments, fancies…which [she is] not able to comprehend…it is in the nature formed within [her]”. Indeed, the nature she speaks of has been formed under the corrupt guidance of Miss Havisham. Dickens also presents an alternative effect of cruelty on children, through the character of Pip. The novel follows Pip as he falls in love with a girl who has shown him nothing but emotional coldness and cruelty. Rather than falling in love with her in spite of this, he seems to be drawn to her specifically because of her poor treatment of him. The implication here is that people who have been victims of cruelty in childhood grow up to see submission to victimhood as the norm. Joe too was violently mistreated as a child, and as a result marries a woman who continues this abuse against him. This is highlighted as Pip laments that “[he] wished Joe had been rather more genteely bought up, and then [he] should have been so too”. In other words, had Joe been able to recognise Mrs. Joe’s cruelty for what it truly was, then he would have been inclined to intervene not only for himself, but for Pip.
Similarly, in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess begins as a character who embodies purity and innocence. However, her rape at the hands of Alec d’Urberville not only serves as a defilement of her physical, virginal innocence, but also of her psychological innocence. When juxtaposed against her originally established moral purity, the brutality of her murder of Alec appears at best unfitting with her nature. The implication here is the idea that cruelty can change a person’s view of the line between what is and what is not moral behaviour, leading them to behave as cruelly as the person who inflicted suffering on them in the first place. As Alec’s body is discovered, the description of the way in which “the point of the blade had touched the heart of the victim” can be deemed as being symbolic. Alec caused her to lose Angel, breaking her heart in the process, and in retaliation she literally breaks his, through penetrating it with a knife. Here, it can also be noted that her violent penetration of his body with a kitchen knife is akin to his phallic penetration of her earlier in the novel. Samarian Kumar Paul A.N. Prasad underpins the true ramifications of the rape for Tess’s morality and former kindness as he argues that “she is much changed from the innocent girl…Now her actions are totally mechanical and her feelings and emotions are dead with the death of her chastity”. This is reminiscent of Estella’s deadened emotions resulting from Havisham’s manipulative cruelty.
In conclusion, the theme of cruelty in both Great Expectations and Tess of the d’Urbervilles is treated largely as an act which those with power inflict on those without it. This cruelty comes in the form of exploitation or abuse in order to fulfil some own personal profit, desire or relief. Whether it be adult against child, experienced against innocent or rich against poor, the weak are cruelly destroyed by those who are able to dominate them in some way. Hardy and Dickens both construct a reflection of the nineteenth century society’s industrial modernisation. As society changes, these changes are catalysed at the expense of the powerless who are used as footholds for others to climb the ladder of Capitalism. Both novels are also bildungsroman’s, which focus on the coming of age of children in a corrupt and cruel society, and the ramifications of this for their emotional and psychological development, often rendering them practisers of either cruelty of victimhood.
Caroll, Joseph. “The Extremes of Conflict in Literature: Violence, Homicide and War”. In The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide and War, edited by Todd K. Shackelford and Viviana A. Veekes-Shackelford, 314-434. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ware: Wordsworth Editions, 2011. Kindle edition.
Gibson, James. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1986.
Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d’Urbervilles. New York: HarperPerennial Classics, 2013. Kindle edition.
Harris, Kenneth. “The Making of a Socialist, 1908 – 18”. In Atlee, by Kenneth Harris, 21–40. London: Orion, 1995.
Kozlovsky, Yvonne. “Death Becomes Them: Women on the Gallows”. In The Death Penalty in American Cinema: Criminality and Retribution in Hollywood Film, by Yvonne Kozlovsky, 181-234. New York: I.B.Tauris, 2014.
Prasad, Samiran Kumar Paul A.N. “Tess in Hardy”. In Reassessing British Literature, by Samiran Kumar Paul A.N. Prasad, 104-121. New Delhi: Sarup and Sons, 2007.
Swafford, Kevin. “Reification and Respectability in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and George Moore’s Esther Walters”. In Class in Late Victorian Britain: The Narrative Concern with Social Hierarchy, by Kevin Swafford, 117-146. New York: Cambria Press, 2007.
Thornton, Sara. “The Burning of Miss Havisham: Dickens, Fire and the “Fire-Baptism””. In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, edited by Harold Bloom, 79-98. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010.
Tredell, Nicolas. Charles Dickens: David Copperfield/ Great Expectations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
 Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (Ware: Wordsworth Editions, 2011), Kindle edition.  Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (New York: HarperPerennial Classics, 2013), Kindle edition.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Kenneth Harris, “The Making of a Socialist, 1908 – 18”, in Atlee, by Kenneth arrHHHHarris (London: Orion, 1995), 23.  Kevin Swafford, “Reification and Respectability in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and George Moore’s Esther Walters”, in Class in Late Victorian Britain: The Narrative Concern with Social Hierarchy, by Kevin Swafford (New York: Cambria Press, 2007), 120.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Nicolas Tredell, Charles Dickens: David Copperfield/ Great Expectations (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 28.  James Gibson, Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1986), 53.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Sara Thornton, “The Burning of Miss Havisham: Dickens, Fire and the “Fire-Baptism””, in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010), 80.  Joseph Caroll, “The Extremes of Conflict in Literature: Violence, Homicide and War”, in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide and War, ed. Todd K. Shackelford and Viviana A. Veekes-Shackelford (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 427.  Yvonne Kozlovsky, “Death Becomes Them: Women on the Gallows”, in The Death Penalty in American Cinema: Criminality and Retribution in Hollywood Film, by Yvonne Kozlovsky (New York: I.B.Tauris, 2014), 215.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Dickens, Great Expectations.  Samiran Kumar Paul A.N Prasad, “Tess in Hardy”, in Reassessing British Literature, by Samiran Kumar Paul A.N Prasad (New Delhi: Sarup and Sons, 2007), 109.