What characteristics of man seem to be prevalent in "Great Expectations"?"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A master of characterization, Dickens has left us with such memorable personages as Ebenezer Scrooge, Madame DeFarge, and Miss Havisham.

  • Miss Havisham = eccentricity, obsessive hatred  She  is the fanatical, devasted old woman who displays many of the characteristics of people that cannot recover from misfortune, but are forever bitter.  She is the eccentric recluse, whose real life ended as she was jilted on the altar. So devasted and humiliated was Miss Havisham that she never returns to the present time.  She holds her hand over her heart, exclaiming that her heart was broken, much like the clocks that hang in her decaying mansion.  Representative of the weak Victorian woman solely dependant upon men, Miss Havisham can only live through another female whom she trains to be cruel to men so she can wreak revenge upon the male race. 
  • Mr. Jaggers = steely logic  He represents those people who are somewhat callous and always see the worst side of mankind.  He is the dark, loud, distant lawyer who cautions Pip to not take things on their appearances.  A foible to Miss Havisham, he sees the seedy side of life, its harshness and cruelty, but he involves himself in the business of this life whereas Miss Havisham removes herself. 
  • Uncle Pumblechook = hypocrisy He is the fawner. At Christmas dinner, as the guest of honor, Pumblechook gives long-winded speeches and behaves in a pompous manner. When he learns that Pip is to play at the wealthy Miss Havisham's, he feels that his position is raised since it was Miss Havisham who asked him about a boy coming to the mansion. 
  • Joe = benevolence  Joe is characterized as the good man who harbors no ill in his heart and is always charitable and loving.
  • Magwitch = poverty and misery  He is portrayed as the poor, miserable wretch who has grown up in the streets and turned to crime simply in order to survive.  As one of the streets, he receives a longer sentence than his gentleman accomplice.  Through Magwitch, Dickens portrays the injustice of Victorian society.
  • Estella = detachment  Estella is the product of the nurturing of hate, rather than love.
  • Wemmick = filial love   Wemmick's devotion to his Aged P is both admirable and poignant.


missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the clearest characteristics is the desire for success. Pip's so excited to leave the forgery to go and study and be something greater, thus the title Great Expectations. His desires to be more are infinite, but they are just desires, unfulfilled promises.

Another characteristic is of man prevalent in this work is hope. Right now, we Americans believe we can make a difference in Haiti. It is a normal condition of the human struggle - we believe in potential. Pip believes in the fact that he is being groomed for Estella and for an upper class life. This is a great hope where he comes from.

A final characteristic to consider is the importance of class. From times past, it has been called a caste system. No matter where you go in the world, man tries to conquer other man through power or intellect. Pip has a hard time with understanding that Magwitch, a terrible ex-con, has been his benefactor... these factors just don't reconcile with him. He has placed too much value on becoming an upper class citizen, that he is not classy at all. However, by the end, he overcomes that and actually tells Magwitch about his daughter.

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Great Expectations

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