Please provide a character sketch of Pip.

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pirateteacher's profile pic

pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Philip Pirrip (or as he's known in the novel Pip) is the main character and narrator of Dickens' novel Great Expectations. The novel relates his journey as he changes as a result of experiences in his life.  An orphan, he is raised by his sister and her husband (ne never knows his deceased mother and father).  While abused and taunted by his sister, he is an apprentice of Uncle Joe.  He has a good heart and moral conscience; throughout the novel we see that he believes that he is better than his circumstances, but things never seem to work out for him.  He learns that he has an unnamed benefactor who is willing to pay for his education.  He assumes the benefactor is Miss Havisham (who has commanded him to love Estella).  He lives his apprentice and goes to London for school, but finds his tutor is inept and that he is ill equipped to take to the ranks of his new social class.

After losing Estella and his rank, he learns that it is not a man's social standing, but his acts that make him a true gentleman.  A lesson that may be learned too late, but shows his personal journey is complete.

 

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Pip is a complex character. His parents die when he is young and he is raised by his abusive sister and Joe, who is loving yet simple. Raised in an environment in which his sister often beats him (though Joe is his defender), Pip, as a young boy, is motivated mainly by fear. For example, he steals food for the convict who threatens him, though he is afraid his sister will find out. When he puts the stolen food down his pants leg, he thinks:

"Conscience is a dreadful thing when it accuses man or boy; but when, in the case of a boy, that secret burden co-operates with another secret burden down the leg of his trousers, it is (as I can testify) a great punishment."

Pip's sense of conscience as a young child is mainly brought about by fear. Menaced by his sister and the convict, he steals because he is afraid of the convict. His sense of what's right doesn't develop until he is older. 

As a young boy, Pip develops a desire for something greater. He is aware at a young age of the limitations of his sister and Joe, and he develops an embarrassment about them, particularly after he is introduced to Miss Havisham and her charge, Estella. After the first day he spends with the wealthy and strange Miss Havisham and the cold and beautiful Estella, he thinks:

"I set off on the four-mile walk to our forge; pondering, as I went along, on all I had seen, and deeply revolving that I was a common labouring-boy; that my hands were coarse; that my boots were thick; that I had fallen into a despicable habit of calling knaves Jacks; that I was much more ignorant than I had considered myself last night, and generally that I was in a low-lived bad way."

Pip is an intelligent boy, and he becomes acutely aware that in snobbish English society, he, who is apprenticed to a blacksmith, is not a gentleman. He disdains Estella's arrogance, but he is at the same time attracted to it and to her superficial beauty. Pip has a superficial sense of what a gentleman is at this point and believes that a gentleman is one who is fine in manners.

After Pip comes into his fortune, he becomes the type of "gentleman" that he has always dreamed of, and he hopes to win over Estella with his fortune. However, the gentleman he becomes is not a true gentleman. He is educated but lazy and always in debt after spending money on silly purchases and wasting time with his friend Herbert Pocket. He arrogantly believes his fortune comes from Miss Havisham and doesn't find out later that it's from the hideous Magwitch, a convict.

After realizing the irony of the source of his fortune and enduring the hardships that Magwitch's presence in London imposes on him, Pip realizes the error of his ways. He finally has the maturity to recognize that the true gentleman and lady in his life are Joe and Biddy, an intelligent and moral woman who Joe married after the death of Pip's sister. Pip finally realizes that Joe, coarse and uneducated though he is, is the best example of a caring and ethical person—the person that Pip should become. In the end, Pip becomes an ethical and humble person with a good sense of himself and the world.

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