In the first stage of Pip's expectations, what adjective could be used to describe Pip's relationship with Biddy or with Miss Havisham?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one adjective that can describe Pip’s relationship with Miss Havisham would be “aware.”  Pip becomes aware of much with his initial introduction to Miss Havisham.  Simply observing the world in which she lives and the world from which he hails makes him aware:  “I took the opportunity of being alone in the court- yard to look at my coarse hands and common boots.”  In his first interaction with Miss Havisham, Pip becomes aware of his own being in the world.  He recognizes that reality which Estella uses to undercut him.  Pip is of a different world, a socially stratified condition.  He was not fully aware of this before.  Yet, in his initial interaction with Miss Havisham, he becomes cognizant of his own condition in the world.  As if emerging from a cave to see light, Pip understands that he is fundamentally different.  This awareness will motivate him, making him far from “satis”fied with his own place in the world.  Being  a “common laboring- boy” has dawned upon him and will forever change his perception of the world and his place in it.  This becomes a consequence of his initial interaction and the relationship with Miss Haivsham, something that dawns on Pip himself:  “I was much more ignorant than I had considered myself last night, and generally that I was in a low- lived bad way.”  Pip becomes aware of the social condition that “rich is right” and “poor is bad” as a result of his initial interaction with Miss Havisham.  He internalizes this to be the truth.

“Driven” would be another adjective to describe Pip’s relationship with Miss Havisham.  Pip initially does not see Miss Havisham as cruel or insane.  He notices the world in which she lives and does not question it.  Rather, he questions himself and criticizes his own condition.  As a result of his relationshio with Miss Havisham, social acceptance drives Pip.  Pip is driven to improve himself, to be seen as acceptable by the world in which Miss Havisham lives.  He wants to improve his education and wants to be “more” than what he is.  For Pip, the need to be socially “better” is one of the results of his relationship with Miss Havisham.  Dickens shows Pip to never question the condition of Miss Havisham’s being in the world.  Rather, Pip blindly accepts it and wants to become something he is not.  This driven aspect of his personality is something that emerges as a consequence of Pip’s relationship with Miss Havisham. 

gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pip's relationship with Biddy in the first part of the book is rather a condescending one, certainly upon his side. He is genuinely fond of her from the beginning, as she is so sweet and inoffensive with everyone. However he also cannot help looking down upon her as she is of a lowly social status, and at this stage he is fired with the ambition to make himself a gentleman and elevate his own social standing.

Of course, it is the proud, cold beauty Estella who has awakened this ambition in Pip; at this point, he believes her to be of high birth (mistakenly, as it turns out), and having fallen desperately in love with her, he feels he must do anything he can to attain to her level. This is what causes him to look down on Biddy, although she is so gentle and kind and caring - the very opposite of Estella. Significantly, she also lacks Estella's beauty, which devalues her further in Pip's eyes. Although Pip rather slights Biddy at this stage in the book, Biddy responds in her usual mild and gentle manner; indeed she does come across somewhat as one of those improbably good and virtuous women who often appear in Victorian fiction.

Pip's rather patronizing attitude towards Biddy is clear at such points as when he refers to her as 'poor Biddy'. His attitude is best gauged in Chapter 17, when he goes out walking with her and confides in her his ambition to leave the humble place of his birth to go to the city and become a gentleman. Consider the quote below:

She was not beautiful - she was common, and could not be like Estella - but she was pleasant and wholesome and sweet-tempered.

Pip here makes quite clear that Biddy, in terms of physical and social attractiveness, cannot compete with Estella, at least in his view. This is highlighted by the interruption of the main clause in this sentence: ''she was common, and could not be like Estella'.

Biddy cannot be more than 'pleasant' for Pip; but in the end, he is suitably punished for disregarding her in favour of Estella and his plans for becoming rich. These plans turns out to be disastrous, he does not win Estella either, and when he comes back to Biddy, humbled and chastened, with some thought of finding solace in marrying her, it is only to find that she has married Joe. Unlike Pip, who has squandered his money and energy on vain pursuits, they are both very happy. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Used as an adjective, the past participle of the verb exploit certainly applies to young Pip in his relationship with Miss Havisham. For, Pip is clearly exploited as he is brought to Satis House to be a playmate for Estella; in fact, Miss Havisham summarily orders Pip to play in Chapter VIII. When Estella disdainfully objects, "With this boy? Why, he is a common labouring-boy!” Miss Havisham whispers, "Well? You can break his heart," indicating her real purpose for having called for a boy in the neighborhood.

After the children finish playing, Miss Havisham haughtily dismisses Pip, instructing Estella to take him downstairs.

"Let him have something to eat, and let him roam and look about him while he eats. Go, Pip."

When Estella returns with some bread and meat, she sets it down on the stones of the yard and hands Pip the bread and meet, as he narrates,

...without looking at me, as insolently as if I were a dog in disgrace. I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, sorry, that tears started to my eyes.

Later, in Stage I after Pip is apprenticed to Joe, Miss Havisham calls Joe Gargery with Pip to Satis House where she tells Joe, "Pip has earned a premium here. There are five-and-twenty guineas in this bag. Give it to your master, Pip. With this, she dismisses Pip, telling him Gargery is "your master now," with the implication that heretofore she has been.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is noteworthy that Pip's attitude toward Biddy initially is very affectionate, although it does, indeed, change after Pip's initiation into the realm of the aristocratic Miss Havisham and her ward Estella. For, in Chapter VII of Great Expectations, Pip attends the evening school of Mr. Wople's great-aunt, a "ridiculous old woman who used to go to sleep from six to seven every evening," leaving Biddy to manage her little general store as well as teach Pip. Describing little Biddy as "an orphan like myself" and "like me, too, ...brought up by hand," Pip feels much empathy toward the neglected child, like him, whose hands need washing, hair needs brushing, and shoes need mending. He is also grateful to Biddy for teaching him to read and for being a sweet companion to him.

It is not, then, until after his visit to Satis House that Pip in Chapter XVII assumes a new perspective of Biddy, one through the lens of the haughty Estella, whom the impressionable Pip envisions as a paragon of beauty and Biddy as "common" [with the connotation of "low class" in British English], a condition that is now anathema to him. This change of attitude toward Biddy as a resident of the marshes foreshadows Pip's moral corruption which occurs in Stage II, as in one visit to the forge he harshly criticizes Biddy, measuring her against his new false values attained in London.

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Great Expectations

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