In Chapter 24 of Great Expectations, what is the purpose of Pip's education?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We learn much later in the novel that Mr. Pocket is only following Mr. Jaggers' instructions as to Pip's education and that Mr. Jaggers is only following the instructions of Abel Magwitch as communicated to him by letter from Australia. Since Magwitch is obviously totally uneducated, he has no idea what he wants Pip to learn, except that he wants him to be able to look and talk like a gentleman. So it would appear that Pip's main instruction would be in English grammar, which he badly needs. Meanwhile his friend Herbert Pocket is giving him lessons in polite manners. Pip explains what little he knows about the wishes of his anonymous benefactor in the opening paragraph of Chapter 24.

Mr. Pocket and I had a long talk together. He knew more of my intended career than I knew myself, for he referred to his having been told by Mr. Jaggers that I was not designed for any profession, and that I should be well enough educated for my destiny if I could “hold my own” with the average of young men in prosperous circumstances. I acquiesced, of course, knowing nothing to the contrary.

Magwitch expects to be able to give Pip all the money he will ever need. Consequently there will be no need for Pip to know how to do anything of a practical nature. This is what eventually causes Pip such distress. He comes to realize that being a "gentleman" is being a wasteful parasite, and that he has to devote much of his thought to finding ways to kill time. This strange situation, peculiar to ladies and gentlemen of the leisure class in Victorian times, is thoroughly analyzed in an excellent book called The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen. Although this condition doesn't seem to trouble many London gentlemen of the day, Pip is different because he grew up in a working-class family and was actually laboring on a blacksmith's forge when he was plucked out of that world and magically granted his wish of becoming a London "gentleman." In Chapter 39 he shows how he had become sufficiently self-educated through his acquired love of reading to be able to write an autobiographical memoir such as the novel Great Expectations purports to be.

Notwithstanding my inability to settle to anything—which I hope arose out of the restless and incomplete tenure on which I held my means—I had a taste for reading, and read regularly so many hours a day.

When Magwitch encounters Pip in his room in Chapter 39, the ex-convict is delighted that Pip has, somehow, achieved the "purpose" of his "education."

“Look'ee here!” he went on, taking my watch out of my pocket and turning towards him a ring on my finger, while I recoiled from his touch as if he had been a snake, “a gold 'un and a beauty: that's a gentleman's, I hope! A diamond all set round with rubies; that's a gentleman's, I hope! Look at your linen; fine and beautiful! Look at your clothes; better ain't to be got! And your books too,” turning his eyes round the room, “mounting up, on their shelves, by hundreds! And you read 'em; don't you? I see you'd been a reading of 'em when I come in. Ha, ha, ha! You shall read 'em to me, dear boy! And if they're in foreign languages wot I don't understand, I shall be just as proud as if I did.”

Magwitch only wanted a protege who could look and talk like a gentleman. Such gentlemen make an impression on the lower classes, as they did on Magwitch, with their rather artificial manners, fastidious tastes, and complete disdain for "work." The same impression had been true for Pip before he found out what a gentleman really was. Now Pip feels ashamed of himself and ashamed of imposing on poor, simple Abel Magwitch. 

StephanieRR | Student

In the first paragraph of chapter twenty-four, Pip says, "[Mr. Pocket] knew more of my intended career than I knew myself, for he referred to his having been told by Mr. Jaggers that I was not designed for any profession, and that I should be well enough educated for my destiny if I could 'hold my own' with the average of young men in prosperous cicumstances." Pip was taken from very poor lower-class standing and educated to fit in among individuals in wealthier society.

liannasmith | Student

pip was educated to become a gentleman and have a means to distinguish himself from the lower class.

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Great Expectations

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