What is the representation of the relationship between the private self and the external world in Great Expectations?
The novel form 'takes the private self as its essential subject matter' (Richetti).
Great Expectations centers on a young man’s experiences growing up and going astray morally. The outside world serves as a temptation.
When Pip is in the comfort of his family (well, relative comfort—his sister beats him), he leads a sheltered but moral life. He loves his uncle, and does not mind being apprenticed to him someday. However, when the outside world intervenes, first in the form of Miss Havisham, Pip moves away from this moral life. He begins to pine for wealth and status. He does not want the material trappings of wealth. He wants the prestige, and the ability to be matched to Estella.
“Biddy,” said I, with some severity, “I have particular reasons for wanting to be a gentleman.” (Chapter XVII, p. 89)
In the end, Pip’s experiences in the outside world are not good. He can barely function as a “gentleman” and does not get what he wants. Estella marries his rival Drummle, and he eventually gives up his life as a gentleman when he learns that the money is really from Magwitch.