Why does Mr. Wopsle change his name to Mr. Waldengarver in Chapter 31?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
In Chapter XXX, Pip reaches into his pocket and finds a playbill which Joe has given him. Quickly, he tells Herbert about the "celebrated provincial amateur of Roscian renown." So, in Chapter XXXI, Mr. Wopsle is performing in Hamlet at the theatre; he has changed his name to Waldengarver for the stage. But, no only is his stage name ridiculous, so is his appearance as Pip describes it,
My gift townsman stood gloomily apart with folded arms, and I could have wished that his curls and forehead had been more probable.
His performance as Hamlet is a parody. Pip and Herbert attempt applauding, but the laughter overrides their applause. After the serious conversation that Pip has had with Herbert in which he has declared his love and devotion to Estella, the comic relief of Mr. Waldengarver's ridiculous performance points to the foolish idea of people that they can make themselves into something else as Mr. Wopsle's performance is absurb to everyone but himself.
Mr. Wopsle has left behind his previous life as a clerk at a village church in order to pursue an acting career on the London stage. Wopsle is not exactly an appropriate name for the great actor he wishes to become, so he changes it to the much grander-sounding Waldengarver. Mr. Wopsle/Waldengarver has, like Pip, come to London to find himself, to find his true vocation in life. For Pip, that means becoming a gentleman; for Wopsle/Waldengarver, as we've seen, it means treading the boards.
Mr. Waldengarver is renowned, or perhaps notorious would be a better word, for his performance as Hamlet, another character with serious identity issues. Unfortunately, Waldengarver turns out to be somewhat less than successful as a thespian, shamelessly chewing up the scenery in a performance so outrageously hammy that it elicits tears of laughter from an audience which includes Pip and Herbert Pocket.