Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

Start Free Trial

How are Pip's emotions his downfall in Great Expectations?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pip, like any ordinary person, made positive and negative choices in his life. In a show of humanity, he fed an escaped convict, Magwitch, who later turned out to be his benefactor. Pip also went ahead to help Miss Havisham, a wealthy woman leading an unhappy lifestyle. It was during his work at Miss Havisham’s house where he met Estella. Estella was unkind towards Pip and to some extent men in general. Pip was, however, attracted to her and willing to do anything to be with her. Pip worked hard and wanted to be a gentleman. His feelings for Estella changed him, as seen when he was unhappy with the blacksmith apprenticeship to Joe that was paid for by Miss Havisham. Pip was later granted his wish to travel to London and become a gentleman; the trip and training were secretly funded by Magwitch. Due to the changes he was already going through, Pip fell deep in debt. Pip learned about Magwitch’s role in his travel to London and started to reevaluate his actions and perceptions. He made an attempt at becoming a humble and better person due to the revelation. Pip proceeded to Cairo where he worked as a clerk and later moved back home to find a changed Estella.

Pip's emotions drove him to make certain decisions in life, with some of those decisions serving as important life lessons. He was kind but also ungrateful towards the likes of Joe. He may also have misjudged Magwitch and his abilities. His pursuit to be a gentleman was driven by his feelings towards Estella and so were the changes he was going through at the time. This clearly shows he was a victim of his own feelings.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pip’s emotions control him in several instances in the story. His fear of Magwitch and the other convict wreaks havoc on his emotions. He fears that he will be killed and his liver eaten, and he is also afraid of what his sister will do if she finds out that he has stolen food from her. In his relationship with Estella, he is of course controlled by his obsession with her, since it is seemingly unrequited. His efforts to be a gentleman, fulfilling his “great expectations,” are based mostly on trying to please her. His hope that it is Miss Havisham who is his benefactor causes him to believe that he is being prepared as a husband for Estella. His disappointment in learning that it is not Miss Havisham, but Magwitch, who has been his sponsor, almost destroys his faith in himself, in others, and in his future. It is only when he puts aside his emotion and faces the truth of his situation that he can readily deal with the turn of events; he returns to the forge and Joe, and gives up any hope of marrying Estella.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial