In Great Expectations, does Pip have a normal reaction when he leaves home in search of a better life? Pip has been a frightened, mistreated little boy who lost his parents and 5 brothers. Is it...

In Great Expectations, does Pip have a normal reaction when he leaves home in search of a better life?

Pip has been a frightened, mistreated little boy who lost his parents and 5 brothers. Is it likely that, having such little knowledge of who he is, Pip could lose sight of himself after leaving?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Within the setting of nineteenth century England and for his age and social class, Pip has a rather predictable and normal reaction about departing from his family for the bustling city of London where he is to become educated and refined as a gentleman. He perceives his "great expectations" as the opportunity to escape being "common." And, with no practical knowledge of life in a large city and how to manage his finances, it is very likely that Pip would, and Pip does indeed, lose his way.

Prior to his departure for London, Pip's most influential experience has been his visit to the decaying and darkly isolated Satis House in which the cruel Estella has ridiculed his boots and called him "coarse" and "common." After this visit Pip has viewed his home through the lens of his humiliating experience, becoming ashamed of the Forge and of Joe. But, his two experiences at Satis House have only lent Pip a blurred and incomplete vision of what it is to be a gentleman. Therefore, as Mr. Jaggers tells Pip, "Of course, you'll go wrong somehow, but that's no fault of mine."

One of the problems that Pip encounters is that of rooming with Herbert Pocket. Because Herbert is the former "young gentleman" with whom he fought on his first visit to Miss Havisham's, Pip assumes erroneously that the polite and well-mannered Herbert has financial acumen, but he does not. Consequently, the young men find themselves in debt.

Another problem that Pip incurs is that he adopts the false values of what Dickens considered a trifling and frivolous aristocracy. In Chapter XXVII, for instance, when Joe has Biddy write Pip that he will visit him in London, Pip worries about who may see him; he hopes Drummle will not meet Joe because this upperclass lout would ridicule Pip for his association with Joe. Indeed, Pip is very anxious about this visit:

Not with pleasure, though I was bound to him by so many ties; no; with considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen sense ofincongruity. If I could have kept him away by paying money, I certainly would have paid money.

When Joe does arrive at Barnard Inn, the now snobbish Pip is embarrassed by Joe's awkwardness and his speech, so Joe departs rather quickly. Afterwards, Pip feels some shame; nevertheless, he still avoids the Forge and stays at the Blue Boar if he ever visits Estella. Pip certainly has lost sight of himself, and he does not come to his senses until he is badly burned after pulling Miss Havisham from the fire that catches her decaying wedding dress For, it is his dear friend Joe who nurses Pip back to health. When he is well enough, the "prodigal son," Pip, begs Joe to forgive him. But, Joe makes light of Pip's reprehensible behavior:

“Which dear old Pip, old chap,” said Joe, “you and me was ever friends." (Ch. LVii)

From his experiences, then, Pip learns "the hard way" after having "gone wrong" as Mr. Jaggers has predicted. From having lost his way, from having placed his faith in false values, Pip learns that the truest gentleman is he who is polished as being gentle and loving in his heart like Joe, not polished in dress or personal mannerisms.

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