How are Pip's expectations different from and similar to those of  Joe, Miss Havisham, Estella and Pip's benefactor, Magwitch?Discuss how the theme of "expectations" is illustrated and...

How are Pip's expectations different from and similar to those of  Joe, Miss Havisham, Estella and Pip's benefactor, Magwitch?

Discuss how the theme of "expectations" is illustrated and developed through the various major characters of "Great Expectations."

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Great Expectations" the characters fall into separate divisions based upon their values and expectations in life.  For, there are those whose values are selfish and whose expectations are based upon self-interest while others have true, spiritual values and altruistic expectations.

Among those whose aspirations are not based upon self-interests and whose values are true is Joe. Providing unconditional love to Pip, Joe is a simple man who teaches Pip not to lie and to "have a strong sense of the virtue of industry" and family.  His expectations for Pip do not go beyond the forge; he wishes for Pip to learn his trade and carry on for him after he is gone.  While Miss Havisham provides a sum for Pip to become apprenticed to Joe, she demonstrates her lack of concern for others by dismissing Pip because he has only been a tool for her design to teach Estella to wreak cruelty upon men.

'Am I to come again, Miss Havisham?' I asked.

"No.  Gargery is your master now.'

Then, in contrast to Joe, Pip does not wish to be part of the forge:

I worked with tolerable zeal against the grain.  It is not possible to know how far the influence of any amiable, honest-hearted, duty-doing man flies out into the world, but I know right well that any good that intermixed itself with my apprenticeship came of plain, contented Joe, and not of restless, aspiring, discontented me.

Pip desires to be upper class, a gentleman.  He does not want to work with his hands; rather, he wishes to attain money without too much effort.  For one thing, it certainly does not bother him that he has a benefactor who provides him with an allowance.  He is ashamed of Joe and worries what Estella might think if she were to see him, for he hopes that he can marry her.

On the other hand, it seems that Estella has no expectations at all.  She simply allows herself to be molded by Miss Havisham, whose expectations are of a single path:  use Estella to punish men for her heart-break.  At the end of the novel, Estella tells Miss Havisham that she cannot love the woman because she has been taught to not have a heart.  For this reason, she also cannot love Pip, and, thus, she destroys his expectation of marriage.

It is interesting to note that those who have had selfish aspirations and false values have suffered consequences for which they have not planned.  Estella becomes incapable of loving anyone since she has been conditioned to be heartless; consequently, Miss Havisham herself suffers from punishment she has wished to place upon men.  Pip, too, suffers for his selfishness and loses his integrity as he neglects Joe and Biddy.  He cannot marry Estella and he is a failure as a gentleman of means.  When Magwitch arrives in London and tells him he has been, in fact, Pip's benefactor, Pip is repulsed by the news.

However, Magwitch is elated to know that Pip has become a gentleman, and demonstrates his unconditional love for the boy who helped him one cold, foggy night.  His goodness forces Pip to realize the falseness of his own expectations, and he regains his decency and loyalty to those who are good to him, as he has done as a little boy.  Because of Magwitch, Pip becomes a gentleman in his heart, "a true gentleman in manner," and tries to save his benefactor, tends him in his dying days, and returns to visit all whom he has loved, thereby illustrating that it is the values of love, loyalty, and hard work that are the greatest of expectations.

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Great Expectations

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