The Changes of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, presents the theme that even the most despicable people are capable of changing for the better. The main character of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge, is known as a very selfish, stingy and cruel man. Scrooge runs his own business that provides him with lots of wealth but it is his heart that never shows any goodness. Scrooge’s reclamation from a misanthropist to a philanthropist begins when he meets Jacob Marley’s spirit.
Jacob was his business partner and every bit as mean as he. Jacob appears to warn Scrooge of the wretched future that will be his if he continues on the path he is on, and shows Scrooge the suffering he himself is going through for his own sins. He tells Scrooge that three spirits will visit him to reveal to him the past, present, and future. As the first spirit takes him to see his past, he realizes how he could have changed the things he did to create a happier life overall, but he remains firm in his beliefs that his ways are still logical. As he is shown the present, and sees the suffering of the Cratchit family due to his greediness, his will power begins to crumble a bit and he starts to feel guilty for his shortcomings and sorry for his fellow man. When he sees the death of Tiny Tim which is mainly his fault and the terrible ending of his own story as are put on view by the ghost of Christmas future, he goes through a dramatic change of character.
The world has been put in perspective for him, which has allowed him to become quite keenly aware of the error of his ways and he now cares deeply for the needs of others as a result. This story encourages one to give second chances to others because people are indeed changeable and can be converted into more virtuous children of God.
Pip’s Impacts in “Great Expectations”
It is difficult to classify the personality of any one person as being entirely one way or another. So, too, it is difficult to classify a rich, round character like Pip in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations as being essentially passionate or essentially moderate. While, as Robert R. Garnett asserts in his essay “The good and the unruly in Great Expectations – and Estella,” there is an apparent distinction between these “two mutually exclusive parties – the moderate and those governed by unruly passions” (25), it is not so facile to apply this categorization with Pip, whose only connection to the latter category is caused by Miss Havisham’s influence. An author may choose to reveal only certain aspects of a character’s personality or exaggerate specific qualities in order to achieve an effect, giving that character a seemingly simplistic nature, as perhaps is the case with Joe or Miss Havisham. Pip, however, makes distinct development throughout the course of the novel and, as such, must be considered carefully before a label can be applied to him. Consequently, rather than being the result of his own actions, Pip’s apparent unruliness is more the product of the detrimental influence of characters who have their own interests in mind, regardless of Pip’s benefit.
As Dickens takes certain pains to express, Pip, as a child, has a distinctly delicate conscience. The mental turmoil that he undergoes after he gives aid to the convict Magwitch is a testament to this delicacy. “I fully expected to find a constable in the kitchen, waiting to take me up,” (Dickens 21; vol. 1, ch. 4) Pip states, feeling in some way that he deserves to be punished for his pilfering. To give perspective, however, to the degree to which he is at the mercy of the influence of his elders, Pip declares, “but all I had endured up to this time, was nothing in comparison with the awful feelings that took possession of me when… everybody had looked at me (as I felt painfully conscious) with indignation and abhorrence” (Dickens 27; vol. 1, ch. 4). Pip, through no fault of his own, is the target of the collective scorn of the adults at the dinner table and this adds to his growing desire to disprove their speculation that he is “naterally wicious” (Dickens 25. vol. 1, ch. 4). Once he makes his first visit to Miss Havisham, Estella comments on his “coarse hands” (Dickens 62; vol. 1, ch. 8) and he begins to understand that these unfounded judgments will follow him throughout his life if he aspires to be nothing more than a blacksmith.
Although Pip is unaware of it, he is, in some subtle way, altered by his first visit to Miss Havisham. When Miss Havisham asks him to play, he tells her that he cannot because of the contrived nature of the situation, but he adds, “if you complain of me, I shall get into trouble with my sister” (Dickens 61; vol. 1, ch. 8). Pip, at this point, is governed to a great degree by his fear of Mrs. Joe. Afterwards, however, he begins to grasp the advantage of his situation. Although his actual encounter with Miss Havisham is frightful for him, he realizes that he can manipulate the envy of Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook when they ask him for an account of his visit. “I beg to observe that I think of myself with amazement when I recall the lies I told on this occasion” (Dickens 71; vol. 1, ch. 9) Pip imparts in a retrospective parenthetical note. If not for his being treated as an annoyance and an ingrate, he would certainly not have resorted to manipulating Mrs. Joe in such a way, and this is the beginning of his apparent descent into unruliness.
The entire situation that Pip is left in by Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe cannot possibly result in any good for an impressionable boy of tender years and any responsible guardian would have understood this. Mrs. Joe does not have Pip’s well being in mind when she sends him to visit Miss Havisham; her aim is her own benefit. This point is most evident in the rampage that ensues upon Pip’s deliverance of Miss Havisham’s message that she would like to meet with Joe, without any mention of his wife (Dickens 103; vol. 1, ch. 12). Mrs. Joe is infuriated at this oversight because of all of her wasted efforts. Yet she cannot be held entirely accountable for her disregard for Pip. The responsibility for the rearing of a young boy is not one that should have been imposed upon such a young woman (as it would appear that Mrs. Joe was at the time of their parents’ death), and when one takes into account the many frustrations and disappointments that she may have suffered in her own life, her poor nurturing is of little wonder. Nevertheless, seen in this light, the unruliness that Pip develops can be attributed more to the careless upbringing that he suffers than to his own doing.
Furthermore, the primary reason that Garnett categorizes Pip as passionate is the result of the unnatural influence that Miss Havisham exercises over him. Although Pip does “[desire] with ruinous intensity” (Garnett 29) throughout the latter part of the novel, it is necessary to consider whether he would have been so enslaved by his passion if not for external circumstances. Garnett himself asserts that “Miss Havisham had kindled his desire for Estella” (30), and if this is the case, would not even the most seemingly moderate young boy have become inflamed with passion, under the circumstances? As Herbert tells Pip, Estella “has been brought up by Miss Havisham to wreak revenge on all the male sex” (Dickens 185; vol. 2, ch. 22), and this reveals Miss Havisham’s ill-intent in her bringing Pip to Satis House to play. An even more direct example of her malevolence occurs on Pip’s first encounter with her, as she explains to an incredulous Estella why she should play at cards with Pip. “You can break his heart” (Dickens 61; vol. 1, ch. 8), she tells her, and as Pip relays, he disbelieves what he hears, as it “seemed so unlikely” (Dickens 61; vol. 1, ch. 8). While Garnett contends that Pip’s “first visit to Satis House awakens his imagination” (31), he does not relate why this is an “awakening” rather than an “instilling.” He provides no evidence that Pip was prone to his passion any more than another boy of similar age.
Despite the fact that Pip displays passionate qualities in the latter part of the novel, this is not sufficient to prove that he has innate “intense, self-absorbed desires” (Garnett 25), since there is no evidence of these characteristics in his youth. While one’s character is formed by one’s choices, it is presupposed that those choices are made without external influence. The role that Miss Havisham played in Pip’s blind devotion to Estella constitutes such influence. As well, the carelessness with which Mrs. Joe raised Pip developed in him a susceptibility to be influenced. These are factors that cannot be excluded in accounting for Pip’s actions and must be taken into consideration if one is to perform an acute analysis of the nature of Pip’s character. Such an analysis is required before it is possible to categorize a character as rich in substance as Pip, and it would moreover be far wiser to refrain from such a categorization.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003.
Garnett, Robert R. “The good and the unruly in Great Expectations – and Estella.” Dickens Quarterly 16:1 (1999): 24-41
Dramatic Symmetry in a Story of the Poor English Boy Pip
In the 1861 novel Great Expectations, Charles Dickens tells the story of a poor English boy named Pip who faces a number of complicated situations and characters on his way to becoming a gentleman. Dickens’ writing style, while indicative of the time period, isnotable for its use of dramatic symmetry. Dickens consistently draws parallels between characters and major eventsthroughout the book to enhance their importance.
Most of the parallels, particularly between characters, are developed overthe full course of the novel. For example, when Pip is young his attention is fixed firmly on Estella. As he grows, he acknowledges the intensity of his love might not be a good thing, going as far as to say, “I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.” Later in the book, Pip is a grown man and has resolved to marry Biddy, proposing by a letter which ends with “…if you can tell me you will go through the world with me, you will surely make it a better world for me…” Pip’s deepest desire is to be with Estella, but as an adult he understands it is in everyone’s interest for him to marry Biddy (at least until he finds out she and Joe are to be married). The dramatic symmetrybetween Estella and Biddy highlights how Pip’s perspective has changed over time.
Two convicts that disturb Pip’s life offer another instance of dramatic symmetry. Magwitch sets Pip’s journey on its way. Later, Compeyson’s appearance leads to Magwitch’s death and Pip is forced to decidewhat to do with his life. Both men force Pip down a specific path.
Pip and Estella unknowingly mimic the relationship between Miss Havisham, adisabled, haggard women, and Compeyson, the convict who left her at the altar. Pip can see thatMiss Havisham has influenced Estella “…to wreak Miss Havisham’s revenge on men…” so that Miss Havisham can feel better after her brutal rejection. Meanwhile, Pip is also carrying out Magwitch’s misplaced ideology. Magwitch is proud of “the gentleman what I made!” and enthralled with the idea of Pip’s transformation. It’s clear, however, that Magwitch is disconnected from reality when he makes comments like, “I’ve come to the old country ‘fur’ to see my gentleman spend his money like a gentleman.” Neither Pip nor Estella truly want to livetheir guardians’ lives, but they have little choice in the matter.
Dickens draws another parallel between Pip and Magwitch (Pip’s secretbenefactor) when Pip decides to become a secret benefactor to his friend Herbert. Pip describes the lengths he goes to keep his identity secret:“…secret articles were signed of which Herbert was the subject, and I paid [Wemmick] half of my five hundred pounds down…” It’s this secrecy that gives Herbert the confidence to act on his dreams of pursuing a partnershipand ultimately become a successful man.
Dickens’ use of dramatic symmetrymakes characters, events, and circumstances more poignant. As events are mirrored throughout the novel, the reader is able to see history repeating itself and understand the importance of recognizing and breaking that cycle.
Great Expectations: Main Pip’s Ambitions
Great Expectations is the account of a young boy’s transition into adulthood as Pip, the central character, searches for contentment. Born into no particular wealth or distinction, he may have lived wholly satisfied with his modest pedigree had it not been for his association with Miss Havisham and consequently Estella. It was with Estella’s bold expression of “contempt” for Pip’s “coarse” appearance that a shadow of discontent was cast over his menial existence. Pip was rapidly overwhelmed by this darkness; it incited in him aspirations towards a brighter, more “uncommon,”“gentlemanly” existence. This paper traces Pip’s attempts to reach that status and how he ultimately finds contentment.
The novel begins with Pip as the quintessential innocent, but his parents’ deaths and his encounter with an escaped convent quickly initiate Pip to his difficult journey to adulthood. This opening incident triggers the restlessness that governs a majority of the novel’s tone.
The impressionable Pip becomes disillusioned upon his first excursion to the ironically named Satis house. Pip is deeply affected by the abovementioned slight from the shrewd, alluring Estella; his overwhelmed heart becomes the most prominent influence on his young life. Quickly after his encounter with Estella, Pip comes to equate being a gentleman with being happy. He simultaneously becomes conscious to the fact that his current situation severely hinders his ability to become a gentleman.
Pip’s ambition to become a gentleman, though unlikely, is not unfounded. The early part of the Victorian era saw the rise of the middle class and consequently a great blurring of social distinctions. The unsophisticated began to flourish by way of merchant trade, gaining equal footing with the Victorian “gentlemen” formerly defined by possession of wealth and property. One specific trait associated with gentlemen in Pip’s society was education, but beyond that society’s definition of gentility was ambiguous. Dickens’ writing is similarly ambiguous; he leaves it to readers to speculate as to how a Victorian gentleman appears and is perceived.
Pip quickly gains his own perspective on society’s conception of a gentleman. His desire to attain this end might have been respected as assertiveness had it not been for his injudicious motives. His only goal is to attain Estella’s respect and admiration. He feels that confidence defines a gentleman, as does a self-assured pretense of superiority, particular mannerisms, and thorough education. Pip is unaware that knowledge does not equate to intelligence, and neither guarantees sophistication.
Pip never directly confirms that he believes leaving the lower-class working world would elevate him in Estella’s eyes, but he laments his status based on the assumption that it would. He therefore begins to feel dissatisfied with his devoted “true friend,” Joe, and their way of life: “I wish my boots weren’t so thick nor my hands so coarse,” he says, and goes on to divulge that he believed himself to be “ignorant and backward” (105). Joe attempts to console him by comparing Pip’s fundamental education with that of a prince, but Pip is not swayed.
Pip is entirely fixed on becoming a gentleman when opportunity strikes. Miss Havisham’s lawyer informs him of his endowed “expectations.” Pip begins to revel in the thought that his life is actually headed towards that of a gentleman – and toward Estella. Hasty in his conviction that Miss Havisham is indeed his benefactor and intends him for Estella, he toils little over his decision to leave the forge. At this point, assuming a secure future, Pip’s contempt for the “common or coarse” is fully ingrained. Without yet bettering himself, he sees himself bettered. He displays his newfound arrogance to Biddy upon her attempt to check his swelling pride: “You are envious, Biddy, and grudging. You are dissatisfied on account of my rise in fortune” (181). Pip’s egoism in this situation is unbecoming; it draws further attention to his inexperience.
Pip’s departure from Gad’s Hill at the end of the first volume epitomizes his departure from innocence. The second stage of Great Expectations sees Pip coming to realize his goal to an insincere degree. Whereas a true gentleman comfortably and unconscientiously resides in his role, Pip is not yet accustomed to it; he feels obliged to act the part but does not necessarily succeed. His self-conscious attempts at the gentleman role are obvious as he contemplates the potential confrontation of Trabb’s boy upon return to Gad’s Hill: “Deeming that a serene and unconscious contemplation of him would best beseem me, and would be most likely to quell his evil mind, I advanced with that expression of countenance, and was rather congratulating myself on my success” (274).
Pip believes acknowledgment of the boy, who was of similar age (and previously, status) is now beneath him. The conscious effort put forth to rebuff Trabb’s boy is taken with warranted offense, as Pip has become a condescending shell of a gentleman. Pip’s discomfort with his newly acquired status was evidently apparent to the ill-mannered boy of Mr. Trabb, who upon receiving the snub made use of every opportunity to humiliate “Mr. Pip.” While Pip had outwardly expressed indifference to the boy, he admits that “Words cannot state the amount of aggravation and injury wreaked upon me” (275) – hardly the cool reaction one would expect from a more sophisticated gentleman.
The end of the second and the third stage of Great Expectations reveal the destruction of Pip’s optimism and the consequent nullification of his desire to be a gentleman. With the abrupt return and revelation of his benefactor, Pip’s fear of being apprehended for aiding an escaped convict eclipses any desire to consider his outward appearance. In addition, he comes to realize that “gentleman” is merely a title. Estella has commenced a courtship with Bently Drummle, who – if accepted by Estella – should theoretically personify Pip’s assertions. But in attempting to discern the characteristics that make Drummle a gentleman, Pip becomes disillusioned with and turns away from the role of gentleman.
One may interpret Great Expectations as a novel of failure, in that Pip fails to realize his initial objective of becoming a gentleman, but perhaps this is a fortunate failure. Pip comes to appreciate the contentment that comes with existence as a good, honest man and not necessarily a gentleman – whatever that means. He realizes, in the end, that happiness is not reserved to gentlemen alone.
Joe Gargery’s Alienation as the Impersonation of the High Society’s Values
In Dickens’s Great Expectations, the alienation of the amiable Joe Gargery speaks volumes about the values of high society at that time. Joe represents the epitome of friendship and love, but he is constantly out of his element when around noblemen or -women such as Miss Havisham. Through Joe’s alienation, Dickens reveals the negative aspects of 19th century British society and helps Pip to realize that he was wrong to move away from the forge.
Throughout Pip’s parentless childhood, Joe was a hero. He was always there to comfort Pip after a thrashing from the ill-tempered Mrs. Joe, and the two were “ever the best of friends”. Joe stays with the wicked Mrs. Joe and treats her well because he loves Pip and wants to stay friends with him. Once the first few chapters have passed, the reader sees Joe as the personification of loyalty and kindness. These qualities are further magnified when Mrs. Joe is paralyzed by a blow to the head while Joe and Pip are away. Even though Mrs. Joe is not able to speak or move, Joe stays by her side and cares for her until she passes away. Despite Joe’s ignorance in reading and writing, his life as a gentle blacksmith with Pip by his side leaves him wanting nothing more out of life. Pip, however, soon finds out that he himself does want more than life at the forge.
After Pip meets Miss Havisham and becomes enthralled with the idea of being a gentleman, life changes for both him and Joe. Dickens comments on the elitism of the upper class through Pip’s actions after he becomes acquainted with Miss Havisham. Pip starts to have second thoughts about becoming a blacksmith, even though he always wanted to follow in Joe’s footsteps. While at Miss Havisham’s mansion, her adopted daughter Estella tells Pip he has “coarse hands” and “thick boots” (Dickens, 62), which destroys Pip’s self-esteem. Until this point, he had never even thought about his appearance. This brief taste of the life of a gentleman, however, corrupted his value system and made him strive to win the heart of the beautiful Estella. Exposure to high class society ultimately causes Pip to abandon his apprenticeship with Joe and live in London with the help of a mysterious benefactor.
The first scene where Joe’s social awkwardness is revealed comes when Miss Havisham asks Pip to bring Joe along to their next meeting. The meeting is very strange, and Joe cannot even speak to Miss Havisham. Rather, he directs all of his words to Pip, who in this scene serves as the bridge between Joe’s low class and Miss Havisham’s high class. Dickens uses this scene to comment on the upper class society. Up until this point Joe has been a warm and friendly person to everyone that he has met, including two escaped convicts. When a noble person like Miss Havisham enters the picture, however, he freezes up. Dickens uses this awkward reaction to imply that the highest people in society are so corrupt that not even Joe, a good and amiable person, can speak with them. Unfortunately, this is the society to which Pip aspires.
The second scene that reveals Joe’s alienation from upper class society comes when Joe arrives in London with Wopsle and wishes to see Pip. The changed Pip remarks: “If I could have kept him away by paying money, I would have paid money” (Dickens, 229). Pip’s hesitation to see Joe in London is confirmation that he has greatly changed. The man that he once loved and aspired to be like is now a burden and an embarrassment. Even though Joe is the epitome of everything that is good, the upper class cannot accept him because his manners are not honed and he is unable to read. Pip is slowly transforming into a gentleman who will soon be unable to tolerate Joe. For example, whenever Pip is in the area of the forge to visit Miss Havisham, he always makes an excuse to avoid visiting Joe.
Pip eventually invites Joe to visit, but only to see Herbert. He knows that Herbert will accept Joe, but avoids inviting any of his other friends in fear that they will not. Pip made elaborate preparations to avoid presenting Joe to Drummle, his rival, because “our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise” (Dickens, 230). Pip ignores all of the things that Joe has done for him in order to avoid embarrassment in front of a man that he despises, which speaks volumes about the man that Pip has become.
Joe is very uncomfortable during the dinner, evident through his ramblings and calling Pip “sir”. Pip and Joe are now on completely different levels of the social pyramid, and Pip does not understand why Joe is calling him “sir”. Before Joe departs, he tells Pip that he will stop calling him “sir” if he comes back to visit at the forge – the only place where Joe can be himself. He implies here that Pip, too, is in an unnatural environment outside the forge. Pip belongs in the forge with Joe, and this scene shows that he is too jaded to realize this.
The final uncomfortable scene between Joe and Pip occurs when Pip falls ill. Commentary on the high society is immediately thrown at the reader when no one from Pip’s new life comes to his aid. Pip’s good friend Herbert is gone on a business venture, and there is no one left in the “great world” in which Pip now lives to care for him. The only person that comes to Pip’s aid is good old Joe, his one true friend. When Pip is helpless during his illness, he undergoes a second childhood (so to speak) with Joe. During this time, he leans on Joe and the two become closer, and Pip was like “a child in [Joe’s] hands” (497). As soon as Pip is nursed back to health, however, things change and Joe once again becomes uncomfortable around Pip. He departs one night, and leaves behind a receipt of all of the debts that he had helped Pip to pay off. The latter series of events had a large effect on Pip. Joe’s tender actions reveal to Pip that he should have never left the forge, and that living the high life was not all that he had hoped for. With his dreams smashed from finding out that he was never meant to be with Estella and the thought of Joe fresh in his mind, Pip sets out to the marshes to make amends.
Dickens uses the character of Joe Gargery to produce the biting social commentary for which he is well known. Through the alienation of Joe Gargery, Charles Dickens successfully points out one negative aspect of 19th century British society and helps Pip to realize that he was wrong to move away from the forge.
Great Expectations: All for Getting Benefits
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.
The Metaphor of Filth in Great Expectations
In Great Expectations, the word “taint” describes Pip’s soiled conscience and shame for his identity, which he confuses with low class status and physical filth (Dickens 249). Pip’s usage of it in the passage about his feeling of ‘taint’ shows the way he conflates its multiple meanings. He acquires this stain on his morals and self-worth at the marshes when he gives Magwitch the file, and he first becomes consciously ashamed of this lowness when Estella insults him for his clothing and skin. The next decade of Pip’s life sees him attempting to bury this contamination underneath fancy frocks and elitism so he can physically remove the feeling of taint and win Estella. However, Pip’s coming of age occurs when he realizes the futility of substituting superficial scouring for the inner cleansing he finds by the novel’s conclusion.
Pip’s experience with the convict in the marshes leaves a stain on his conscience that stays with him into his adulthood. The incident not only makes him feel a sense of guilt that follows him throughout the story, but makes him view crime itself as a literal contaminant that can blemish his identity. As he grows older, the guilt of disobeying his sister and Joe mixes with the shame of associating himself with the lowness of a convict.
Even as Pip ages, prisons and their inmates still recall the mix of fear, discomfort and regret that he first experienced at the marshes. In the passage about Newgate prison, he says that the feeling he got in his encounter with the convict had stuck with him “like a stain that was faded but not gone.” It reappears at Newgate, indicating that in his mind he’s tethered the grime of criminals and their living conditions with his personal shame. The convict’s past eclipses all of his generosity in Pip’s mind because it means he’s indebted to a common criminal, something he finds both morally and socially repulsive.
Pip’s tainted feeling is made worse when he contrasts it with his view of Estella. His obsession with ridding himself of physical dirt and coarseness grows when Estella insults him during his first visit to Ms. Havisham’s. Before this, he was never conscious of his poor status or unkempt appearance because he had no higher level of wealth to compare it to. All at once, he finds that he is rough and common, that society deems this shameful, and that the first beautiful girl he’s met is disgusted by him. The contrast he sees between his own ragged appearance and that of Estella’s causes Pip to view his background with as much disfavor as she views him. He then is self-conscious about any physical dirt that covers him, as when he feels “absolute abhorrence” when contrasting her beauty with the soot and stench he picks up from Newgate. In his infatuation, he mentally transforms all of his insecurities into impurities he can try to physically shake off or disguise.
This attempt to literally remove the dirt from himself is manifested in Pip’s bid to become a gentleman. Rather than confront his fear of the convict or his remorse for how he parted with Joe and Biddy, he drapes them in clothing that society deems presentable. Ironically, he was most happy at the forge, and his raising social class only serves to sink his spirits.
The fact that this struggle to change his nature by elevating his class is in vain is foreshadowed twice in the novel. First, Pip tries to improve Joe’s dress when he visits Ms. Havisham only to find that his new clothes make him seem clumsy and birdlike. His second failed attempt at transforming a commoner comes when he dresses Magwitch in ornate suits but finds that the more he disguises him, the more he looks like a convict. Similarly, the entire thread of the narrative sees Pip fitting awkwardly into a gentleman’s garb, gaining wealth and favor but never feeling as happy as he did when he was living with Joe in his impoverished home.
The recurring theme of the various kinds of taint is closely linked to the greater theme of Pip understanding that surfaces are poor indicators of what is beneath them. He finds poverty, criminals, and coarseness tainted, but it is actually coming into contact with these elements that make him evolved by the story’s end. To finally sanitize his shame, Pip gives money to Herbert that could have been his own, accepts that Estella will never be his, burns his hands saving Ms. Havisham, and reaches out to Magwitch as the convict dies. By allowing himself to become coarse, dirty, and poor, he is able to rid himself of the deeper moral taint and be happy for the first time since he lived with Joe. He was unhappy the entire time of his expectations, but describes his life working as a clerk as contented. By the story’s end, his battle with these varieties of taint teach him that he is richer for his loss of wealth, that men of the lowest station can be of the highest value, and that the cleanest conscience can lie beneath the coarsest exterior.
- Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Boston, MA. Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press, 1996. Print.
Joe Gargery: Ironical Goodness in “Great Expectations”
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.
Oliver Twist Story Review
Charles Dickens’, Oliver Twist, recounts the tale of Oliver Twist, an orphan boy born in a workhouse. He spends the first nine years in a home and is then transferred to the workhouse where his mother gave birth to him and died soon after. At one point, Oliver is bullied into asking for more gruel at a meal and Mr. Bumble, the “officer” of the workhouse, offers five pounds to anyone that is willing to buy Oliver. He ends up apprenticed by Mr. Sowerberry, a chimney sweep.
After a boy named Noah Claypole talks badly about Oliver’s mother, Oliver attacks him and runs away to London. When reaching London, he meets Jack Dawkins, who takes him to the home of his contributor, Fagin, a career criminal. Oliver is sent on his first pick pocketing after several days of training with two other boys. Oliver is horrified when seeing the other two boys steal a handkerchief and runs away, ending up convicted of the theft. Mr. Brownlow, the man whose handkerchief was stolen, speaks for Oliver and bring him home, nursing him to health. Mr. Brownlow is shocked by the resemblance the young boy has with a portrait of a young woman in his home.
Some time passes, and two workers for Fagin, Bill Sikes and his lover Nancy, capture Oliver and send him back to Fagin. Oliver is sent robbery with Sikes, and is shot in his arm. He is taken to Mrs. Maylie and her adopted niece Rose, the residents off the home of the attempted heist, and is cared for. As he heals, Oliver grows fond of the two ladies and stays with them in the countryside during the summer. But a mysterious man named Monks and Fagin are set on recapturing Oliver. We learn that Oliver’s mother left a golden locket that was taken by Monks and destroyed after her death. The Maylies return to London and Rose meets with Nancy who gives details on a conversation between Fagin and Monks.
Once word of Nancy’s actions reach Sikes, he brutally murders her and flees London. Pursued by guilt, he inadvertently hangs himself while trying to escape. Mr. Brownlow confronts Monks on Oliver’s lineage, and it is revealed that Monks and Oliver are brothers. Their father, Mr. Leeford, was unhappily in an arranged marriage and had an affair with Oliver’s mother, Agnes Fleming. Monks has been pursuing Oliver in hopes of making Oliver unable to share the family inheritance. However, he is forced by Mr. Brownlow to sign over Oliver’s share. It is also discovered that Rose is Agnes’s sister, therefore, Oliver’s aunt. Fagin is caught by the police and sentenced to the death penalty. Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver, and he and the Maylies retire to the countryside.
Charles Dickens’s Biography
“Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” quote by one of the most influential author of English Victorian era, English novelist, Charles Dickens, who wrote numerous highly acclaimed novels. Dickens lived a life filled with happiness and sadness and everything in between. He left such amazing work which is the finest part of Victorian Era literature.
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England. His full name was Charles John Huffam Dickens. He was the second child of John and Elizabeth Dickens. As a child he always liked to put on plays in a family kitchen, and singing songs, standing on the table in the local pub. After that, John and Elizabeth moved to London. And the family moves there. John was a congenial man, he got into big debt. Charles Dickens started going to school at the age 9. His father was sent to prison because of bad debt. After that, Charles had to work in Warren’s blacking factory and endured appalling conditions as well as loneliness and despair. This was a factory that handled “blacking,” or shoe polish. The conditions were really bad. Meanwhile, his family was sent to Marshalsea, to live near his father’s prison, and Charles was left alone.
After three years, Dickens was sent back to school but his working experience was never forgotten and that experienced inspired the writing of two well-known novels, “David Copperfield” and “Great Expectations”. His father was able to pay the debt. Things turned around again, Dickens at the age of fifteen had to leave school again because he had to work in an office. In the following year, he became a freelance reporter and stenographer at the law courts of London. By 1832 he was a reported for two magazines. Dickens believed that writings can play a big role in fixing the problems of the world. Dickens became a journalist and began with the journals ‘The Mirror of Parliament’ and ‘The True Sun’. After that, he became a journalist for The Morning Chronicle. He published his first book in 1836, “Sketches by Boz”. In April 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth who edited ‘Sketches by Boz’. In the same month, Dickens published “Pickwick Papers” which was really successful. Catherine and Charles had 10 children. In 1836 Dickens began to publish The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. This method of writing was really popular in the Victorian Era. After this, he began publishing “Oliver Twist”. He was also now editor of Bentley’s Miscellany, a new monthly magazine. He continued publishing his novel in his later magazines, Household Words, and All the Year Round. Olive Twist kind of expressed Dickens life because this book is about a boy, an orphan, in London. Overall Dickens’s career was really successful but not in his first decade when he published work like Nicholas Nickleby (1838–1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–1841), and Barnaby Rudge (1841).
Dickens was also famous in America. He went on a five-month lecture tour of the United States. He spoke out strongly against slavery and in support of other reforms. When he returned from the United States he wrote the book “American Notes”, a book that criticizes American life as being culturally backward and materialistic. He also wrote another novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, which was about a hero finding that survival on the American frontiers is more difficult than in England. He also wrote, “A Christmas Carol and The Chimes”. Later on, he went abroad to Italy. Italy’s beauty inspired him to write “Pictures from Italy”. He also started to publish installments of “Dombey and Son”. Its full title was “Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son”. This completed the novel and boosted Dickens success. Dickens next novel was “David Copperfield”. This is an autobiographical novel fictionalized elements of Dickens’s childhood, his father was an inspiration for the character of Mr. Micawber, his pursuit of a journalism career and his love life. This was Dickens favorite book. In 1850, he began a new magazine, Household Words. His editorials and articles touched upon English politics, social institutions, and family life.
The 1850s were a gloomy time for Dickens. In 1851, he lost his father and one daughter within 1 week. After e few years, he fell in love with an actress so he separated from his wife. In response to his sadness, Dickens’s next novels were called his “dark” novels. These novels are considered the greatest triumphs of the art of fiction. He wrote the “Bleak House” which is considered to have the most complicated plot of any English novel, the narrative created a relation of all segments of English society. He wrote other novels such as “Hard Times” and “Little Dorrit”. Some consider the “Bleak House” to be the best novel he has written and others consider “Little Dorrit” since it portrays the conditions of England as he saw it and the conflict between the world’s harshness and all of these were expressed in a really impressive artistic form.
In 1859 Dickens published a historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, which was about the French Revolution. Dickens also published seventeen articles which later on appeared as a book entitled “The Uncommercial Traveller”. Next, he wrote “Great Expectations” which is sometimes also considered as his best work. It is a story of a young man’s moral development from childhood to adult life. His last finished work was “Our Mutual Friend” which is about how he viewed London. Before death, Dickens started writing “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”, but he never finished it. For several years Dickens was sick. He had a railroad accident in 1865 from which he never recovered entirely. Dickens died of a fatal stroke on June 9, 1870.