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In Great Expectations, how does Herbert's "love life" contrast with Pip's?

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HunterC18 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 13, 2013 at 2:26 PM via web

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In Great Expectations, how does Herbert's "love life" contrast with Pip's?

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 13, 2013 at 3:40 PM (Answer #1)

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Herbert Pocket shows his good sense by falling in love with a sweet, modest girl named Clara Barley, who contrasts, not only with Pip's snobbish, vain, selfish Estella, but also with the wife of Herbert's father, who is unable and unwilling to do anything useful in the household and who is about as vain and snobbish as Estella. It is significant that Dickens has named Estella after a star. She is as distant, as cold. and as unattainable for Pip as a star. His adoration of such a girl shows his idealistic, impractical nature, whereas Herbert's sensible love for Clara shows his practical and realistic nature. Herbert will do well in business, and Clara will be a great asset to him when her ogreish father finally dies and she feels free to marry.

Pip meets Clara for the first time in Chapter 46. He describes her briefly:

She really was a most charming girl, and might have passed for a captive fairy, whom that truculent Ogre, Old Barley, had pressed into his service.

Estella respresents upward social mobility to Pip, whose driving ambition has always been to become a gentleman. He loves her as much for her affectations and snobbishness and pride as for her grace and beauty. He fell in love with her as a young boy because she despised him and let him know it. She was his inspiration. He wanted to become a gentleman to impress her and even possibly to win her in marriage.

Herbert belongs to a higher social class than Pip. He has had plenty of exposure to the snobbishness, selfishness and cruelty of the higher classes. This may explain why he wants a simple, humble, unpretentious girl like Clara. The reader can see almost immediately that Clara is a better potential match for a young man than Estella, who will be an affliction for any man she marries, or than Mrs. Matthew Pocket, who has been a millstone for her husband ever since they were first married without being prepared to provide for themselves or for their constantly growing family.

Herbert Pocket tells Pip one of the many reasons why he values Clara:

But what a blessing it is for the son of my father and mother, to love a girl who has no relations, and who can never bother herself or anybody else, about her family!"

Herbert seems to be thinking in particular of his mother, whose only interest in life appears to be the comings and goings of the English aristocracy, to whom she is very distantly and tenuously related through her father:

...a certain quite accidental deceased Knight, who had invented for himself a conviction that his deceased father would have been made a Baronet but for somebody's determined opposition arising out of entirely personal motives...

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