Pip’s Influences In Great Expectations

March 25, 2019 by Essay Writer

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.Works CitedDickens, 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

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