Examine the life experience of Philip Pirrip (Pip) as portrayed in Great Expectations.

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pip is a poor boy who falls in love with a rich girl. He is like Jay Gatsby, who falls in love with Daisy in The Great Gatsby. Both want to improve themselves to be worthy of the girls they love. Gatsby makes a lot of money through crime. Pip acquires a lot of money from a transported convict, although he is led to believe that his benefactor is really Miss Havisham. Both young men need money in order to improve themselves. Both study to become polished gentlemen. Both succeed. Both have "great expectations." Gatsby believes that with money and the persona of a gentleman he can still win Daisy, even though she has married and had a child. Pip believes he is destined to marry Estella, and that it was Miss Havisham's intention for him to do so, after he had used her money in order to transform himself into a London gentleman.

When Pip discovers that his real benefactor is a convict with a long criminal record, he is devastated. He does not feel that he can continue to accept money from this man. Estella, like Daisy, is married to someone else. Both Pip and Gatsby have worked hard to acquire gentlemanly tastes and manners for nothing. Both cause tragedy for others. Gatsby is indirectly responsible for the deaths of Myrtle Wilson, George Wilson, and finally his own. Pip is indirectly responsible for the deaths of Miss Havisham, Abel Magwitch, and  Compeyson. Pip and Gatsby come to realize the vanity of their "great expectations." Pip, in fact, ultimately realizes that all obsessions, such as Miss Havisham’s obsession with her personal misfortune, are monstrous self-deceptions.

And could I look upon her without compassion, seeing her punishment in the ruin she was, in her profound unfitness for this earth on which she was placed, in the vanity of sorrow which had become a master mania, like the vanity of penitence, the vanity of remorse, the vanity of unworthiness, and other monstrous vanities that have been curses in this world?

Miss Havisham’s “vanity of sorrow” as well as her hatred and obsession with revenge have caused her nothing but pain and have poisoned the lives of Estella and Pip as well.

Accordingly there are six types of persons: some dominated by greed, others by hate or delusion, others by faith, intelligence or discursiveness.                                                             Buddhist Scriptures

"Discursive" has the following synonyms in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary: desultory, digressional, digressionary, digressive, excursive, leaping, maundering, meandering, rambling, wandering.
Most people are probably dominated by discursiveness, and this would include Wemmick and the good-hearted Joe Gargery.

Pip was dominated by delusion. Magwitch was dominated by hatred of Compeyson. Estella, ironically, was dominated by her delusion of grandeur; she did not realize that she was the daughter of a fugitive ex-convict and a murderess. Jaggers was dominated by greed.

Pip set out to learn refined manners and to improve his mind. He learned that people with refined manners are not always truly refined. In improving his mind, he came to understand what Dr. Samuel called "The Vanity of Human Wishes." Instead of becoming a gentleman, Pip had become a wastrel and a fop, like most of the other parasitical gentlemen he met in London. He also realized Dickens' main message: that the leisure class is maintained by the toil and hardships of those who do the world's heavy labor.

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Great Expectations

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