In Great Expectations, how does determination play a role in Pip's development?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With love as one of the greatest driving forces in life, Pip's determination to win the love of Estella impels him to strive to become a gentleman and rise in social class so that he can be able to earn the beautiful young lady's love. To do so is Pip's "great expectation." He hopes that when he comes into money and is educated, he will be the equal of Estella and able to attain her. That money has power to change people's attitudes toward one another is a favorite subject of Dickens and Pip's attitude that money will make him more favorable in Estella's eyes is an example of this theme.

When Pip rents an apartment with Herbert Pocket, he has the former "pale young gentleman" teach him the correct way to eat with fork and knife.  He takes classes with Bentley Drummle and Startop and Herbert.  However, when Joe comes to London, Pip is ashamed of him and embarrassed by him.  Poor Joe concludes that they are not "two figures to be together in London," and he departs. 

After Pip is sent for by Miss Havisham, he rationalizes,

She had adopted Estella, she had as good as adopted me, and it could not fail to be her intention to bring us together.

 As they walk together, Pip narrates that he worships the hem of her dress while she, "quite composed and decidedly not worshiping the hem of mine."  Upon his return to the house, Miss Havisham draws him close and asks, "How does she use you?" hoping that Estella has hurt Pip.  Still, he entertains his "expectations" and his determination to win the heart of Estella. As he lies in his bed at the Blue Boar,

Far into the night, Miss Havisham's words, "Love her, love her, love her!" sounded in my ears.  I said to my pillow, "I love her, I love her, I love her!" hundreds of times.

Then, in Chapter XXXIII, as Pip meets Estella carriage, she seems "more delicately beautiful" than ever. However, Estella's treatment of Pip is less than kind:

Her reverting to this tone as if our association were forced upon us and we were mere puppets, gave me pain; but everything in our intercourse did give me pain....I could put no trust in it, and build no hope on it; and yet I went on against trust and against hope.  Why repeat it a thousand times?  So it always was.

Desperately in love, Pip is determined to pursue Estella despite her ill treatment of him.  When he kisses her hand she comments, "You ridiculous boy....Will you never take warning?"  In his single-minded determination, Pip does not take heed, and his heart is finally broken.  Yet his unattainable star that he has continually reached for, Pip tells Estella,

..."you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil.  But I associate you only with the good, for you must have done me far more good than harm."

ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most glaring example of Pip's determination in the novel is his life-long quest to become a gentleman in order to impress Estella. 

In Chapter 7 of the novel, Mrs. Joe comes home with the news that Miss Havisham has sent for Pip, and that he is to come and "play" at her house.  Once at Miss Havisham's, Pip is ridiculed by Estella, who calls him a "common labouring-boy" and observes his "coarse hands" and "thick boots." 

The experience makes such an impression on Pip that he sets out, from a very early age, to become "uncommon" in order to impress Estella.  In his quest to become a gentleman (which is funded by a mysterious, anonymous benefactor who Pip assumes to be Miss Havisham), Pip moves to London, gets an education, and begins to associate with people such as Herbert and Mr. Jaggers. 

In Chapter 39, the convict returns to annouce that he is Pip's benefactor, and that he had worked his whole life to repay Pip for the act of kindness Pip showed in the early chapters of the novel.  Instead of being appreciative, Pip is disgusted and disappointed that the path he has chosen for his life is not the one he thought it was.  That is, Miss Havisham didn't have a master plan to improve Pip so he would be suitable for Estella.  In one night, Pip's understanding of the course of his life changes. 

It's not until Pip accepts his new circumstances that he's able to learn to love completely and see the error in his ways.  By the end of the novel, he has reconciled with Joe and Biddy, and he has selflessly assisted (and stayed with) Magwitch until Magwitch's death. 


litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This book is a great coming of age story.  Pip wants to rise above his means.  The idea first enters his head when he meets Estella.  She is rich and he is poor, but he falls in love with her.  He is glaringly ambitious.  Through Magwitch, he is given the opportunity to achieve his ambitions through no work of his own.  Once Pip has money, he does not do anything with it.  He tries to become a gentleman by dint of having money only, because money gives him entrance into the right social circles.

sssserr | Student

gfgfdgfd jhghjghj.

dwideva26 | Student

The example is that he wanted to change to show estella that he was also a rich man now and not a common labouring boy as she used to interpret him to be.

I hope my answer will help you.

Read the study guide:
Great Expectations

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question