In Great Expectations, after Pip goes to London he experiences many conflicts with himself about his past views , relationship, and experiences with Joe. Explain these conflicts that he has with himself about Joe and how that highlights his harsh experience of high social class in London and after London in detail.
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Pip learns that being a gentleman is an issue of what you do, not what you have.
When Pip first arrives in London, he has no idea what to expect. He has a romanticized idea of becoming a gentleman so that he can be the match for Estella. All he sees is becoming worthy of her. The problem is that London is dirty and crowded.
[While] I was scared by the immensity of London, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it was not rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty. (Ch. 20)
His other problem is that he has no idea how to conduct himself. He seems to think he will suddenly become special and clever overnight. What he ends up is living in a rented room, learning how to be a gentleman from a tutor who is laughable. He learns basic manners from Matthew Pocket and his son Herbert, his roommate, but basically has no other direction.
He experiences all of the stereotypical negative aspects of social class. He joins the Finches of the Grove, a social club where all he does is spend money and get into arguments. He manages to acquire a lot of debt.
So now, as an infallible way of making little ease great ease, I began to contract a quantity of debt. I could hardly begin but Herbert must begin too, so he soon followed. (Ch. 34)
He has no idea what he is spending money on, and how much he owes. While Pip can always get more from Wemmick, Herbert has no ready supply. Pip basically makes a fool out of himself, spending money on things like a servant he has no use for, just because he thinks a gentleman ought to have one. He feels so much guilt about hiring him that he calls him the Avenger.
When Joe comes to London, Pip sees how bad things have gotten. The entire experience makes them both terribly uncomfortable. Joe calls Pip “sir,” due to his raised social status and the distance Pip keeps between them now. Pip is irritated with him for that, but more so with himself. He feels an internal conflict in the pain he has caused Joe in not being a better son to Joe. Pip has actually been homesick, and missed Joe. But Joe doesn’t know it. He assumes Pip has made it, and is happy. Pip is actually miserable. His wealth has not given him friends or family. It caused him to be rude and petty, and push away the people that mattered. When Pip asks Joe why he calls him “sir” he gets his answer in a look.
Joe looked at me for a single instant with something faintly like reproach. Utterly preposterous as his cravat was, and as his collars were, I was conscious of a sort of dignity in the look. (Ch. 27)
That look tells Pip all that he needs to know. It tells Pip that Joe is there to see Pip because he cares about him, and Joe is treating Pip the way that he wanted to be treated. Pip is the one who puts on airs, and does not stay with them when he comes to town. Pip is the one who acts like he is better than everyone else. He distanced himself from his family. He fled from them, the minute he could, and didn’t look back. Joe, who loved Pip and treated him like a son, was hurt by that. Joe tells Pip he will not be coming again.
Eventually, Pip’s new life comes crashing down on him when Magwitch returns, but he has already given it a good start by causing a fight with Drummle over Estella at the Finches club and getting into debt. Magwitch turns out to not be a gentleman after all. He’s a criminal. Pip no longer is a gentleman either, and his star falls as quickly as it rose. Yet he has learned his lesson. He wants to be a good person, and focus on the people he cares about. Class means nothing next to that. The definition of "gentleman" that Pip decides to use after that, is a person who does good, rather than a person who has money.
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