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In Great Expectations, why does Pip need to redeem himself when he becomes a man?

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malikeja | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted June 4, 2012 at 5:41 AM via web

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In Great Expectations, why does Pip need to redeem himself when he becomes a man?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 4, 2012 at 4:01 PM (Answer #1)

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After learning from Mr. Jaggers that he is to have "great expectations," Pip's attitude toward his family and friends at the forge alters greatly as he comes to believe that the superficial standard of social class has value. Foreshadowing his ascent to snobbery, on the day of his departure to London where he will live as a young gentleman, Pip hurries from Joe and Biddy, requesting that they not accompany him to the coach. Yet, he is aware of his ingratitude:"If I had cried before, I should have had Joe with me then."

Once established in London in Stage II of Dickens's novel, Pip receives a letter written by Biddy that Joe is to come soon to London. Agonizing that the "pale young gentleman" Herbert, who is now his roommate, will be appalled at Joe's lack of refinement, Pip is cold and unreceptive to Joe when he arrives; further, Pip feels great embarrassment at Joe's awkwardness.  When Joe, in his manly dignity, tells Pip that he will not visit him again in London and departs, Pip tarries and does not step outside to call him back in time. Again, he recriminates himself, but does not go to the forge and visit Joe.  Moreover, even when he does return to the village, it is to visit Estella, and he stays at the Blue Boar instead of going to the forge and being with the loving Joe.  It is not until Chapter LVII when Joe arrives in London to tend Pip's burns, that Pip expresses his guilt over his neglect of his dear friend and father-figure:

"O Joe, you break my heart! Look angry at me, Joe. Strike me, Joe. Tell me of my ingratitude. Don't be so good to me!"

Finally, like the prodigal son, Pip returns to the forge after realizing that social class figures little into the quality of a person, for Pip's greatest friends have been those that he has met and known as a child: Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch.  In recalling the essential truths of life, it is this innocence of his youth to which Pip must return for forgiveness for his neglect of his loved ones as he remembers the essential truths of life.

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