As readers follow Pip over the course of over twenty years, they see him experience and learn many things. I think the most important lesson, though, is one which takes Pip much of the novel to understand.
In Great Expectations, Dickens makes clear--and even exaggerates--the differences in social class in Pip's society. As the novel opens, readers meet a young Pip, who is being raised by his sister and her husband, Joe, a blacksmith. As Pip does not know any other way of life, he does not see anything wrong with the life his family leads. However, as soon as he meets Estella, he becomes aware of her beauty and sophistication--characteristics that drive Estella to point out Pip's "commonness."
When Pip leaves Miss Havisham's for the first time, he feels his own perception of himself is permanently changed:
I set off on the four-mile walk to our forge, wondering, as I went along, on all I had seen, and deeply revolving that I was a common labouring-boy; that my hands were coarse;...
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