Essay, Research Paper: Great Expectations

Literature: Charles Dickens

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In Great Expectations, Pip, the protagonist and narrator of the story grows from
a young child to a mannerly gentleman with high social status. Throughout the
story he goes through many changes. However, in the end it turns out that Pip
was handed too much too quickly. Bad fortune falls upon him and he is sent back
to his poor home in Kent. All considered though, this novel is a true story of
love and in the end true happiness for Pip is obtained. Great Expectations was
set in early Victorian times in England when great social changes were sweeping
the nation. The Industrial Revolution had transformed the social landscape,
enabling people to capitalize quickly and largely. Although social status was no
longer entirely dependent on heredity, the gap between classes was wide as ever.
London had become quite different from the nation's rural areas. Throughout
England, the etiquette of the upper class was very strict and conservative while
gentlemen and ladies were expected to have good classical educations and to
behave correctly in every social situation. These conditions were prevalent in
Dickensís time and therefore were expressed in the writing of his novels.
Pip's sudden rise from laborer to gentleman in Great Expectations forces him to
move from one social extreme to another while dealing with the strict rules and
Ďexpectationsí that governed Victorian England. This was an uncommon
occurrence in this time and proved almost impossible for Pip to handle. The
novel begins in the marsh country of Kent, in the western part of England.
Phillip Pirrip, a young orphan boy who named himself Pip, was being raised by
his sister and brother-in-law, Mr. Joe Gargery. One evening when Pip was
visiting his Mother and Fatherís grave at the cemetery he was confronted by an
escaped convict dressed in rags and with his legs chained. The convict grabbed
Pip and ordered him to bring food and a file to release him from his leg irons.
Terrified by what the convict might do if he were to disobey him, Pip went home
and the next day he brought the dark, scary man what he had requested. When Pip
returned with the food and file the convict thanked him but soon scared him off
into the fog. A few days later the convict that he helped was caught and when he
was being taken away he falsely confessed to Mr. Gargery that he had stolen the
brandy and pork pie from the kitchen to guard Pip from getting blamed for the
deed. From that point on Pip had gained an unusual liking for Ďhisí
tormentor. One day Pip is taken by his arrogant uncle Uncle Pumblechook to play
at Satis House, the home of the wealthy Miss Havisham. During this visit here
meets a beautiful young girl named Estella, who unfortunately treats him quite
coldly. For a good time Pip travels back and fourth to the Satis house to visit
Miss Havisham and he becomes closely acquainted with her. However, more
significantly, he grows very fond of Estella despite her crud treatment of him.
Nevertheless, he falls in love with her and dreams of someday becoming a wealthy
gentleman so that he might be worthy of her love and devotion. At age 16 Pip is
apprenticed to his brother-in-law Joe Gargery, the village blacksmith. The
apprenticeship didnít last very long however because one day a lawyer named
Jaggars appears with the strange news that a secret benefactor has given Pip a
large fortune, and he must come to London immediately to begin his education as
a gentleman. Pip quickly assumes that Miss Havisham is the secret benefactor but
Mr. Jaggars refuses to tell him who it is as that was the agreement. Pip soon
leaves for London and there he becomes friends with and lives with a gentleman
named Herbert Pocket, a boy whom he had played with in Miss Havishamís garden.
In London, Pip befriends a young gentleman named Herbert Pocket. He also becomes
friendly with Mr. Jaggers' law clerk, Mr. Wemmick. As Pip progresses in climbing
the social ladder he beings to treat his former loved ones coldly, especially
Joe who had been his only friend at his home in Kent. The one thing that never
changes is his constant thought of Estella who he had not seen in several years.
Several years go by in this way, until one night a familiar person shows up in
Pip's room. It was Abel Magwitch, the convict who pip had stolen the file and
food for many years ago. Contrary to his belief, Magwitch explains that he is
Pipís secret benefactor not Miss Havisham. He tells Pip that he was so moved
by his boyhood kindness that he dedicated his life to making Pip a gentleman,
and made a fortune in Australia for that very purpose. Pip is appalled, but he
agrees to help Magwitch escape from both the police and Compeyson, his former
partner in crime. Everything falls into place however when Pip discovers that
Compeyson was the man who had abandoned Miss Havisham at the altar, and that
Estella is Magwitch's daughter; Miss Havisham had raised Estella to break men's
hearts, as revenge for the pain her own broken heart caused her. As the weeks
pass, Pip sees good in Magwitch and begins to care for him as if he were is own
father. When the escape is attempted, Magwitch and Pip are discovered by the
police, who have received a tip from Compeyson. Magwitch is sentenced to death
and Pip loses his fortune. However he is then forced to go home and reconciles
with Joe and other loved ones whom he so crudely regarded when he was in grasp
of his fortune. For several years Pip works with Herbert and lives a saddened
life after he has lost Estella. But returning to Kent years later, he meets
Estella in the ruined garden at Satis House. He find that Miss Havisham had died
after an incident which had caught her gown on fire and had left everything to
Estella. He also finds that Estellaís husband whom had died had treated her
badly. Pip realizes that Estella's coldness and cruelty have been replaced by a
sad kindness, and the two leave the garden together, never to part again. Pip,
the main character of the story starts off living in a poor part of England and
rises in his social status throughout the novel. There were two important
factors in Pipís life that were bound to affect him throughout the whole
story: when he met and furnished the convictís request, and when he was sent
to Miss Havishamís where he met the beautiful Estella. Pip is very passionate
in the story and his strong perseverance creates a positive outcome for him in
the end. Miss Havisham's beautiful young ward, Estella is Pip's unattainable
dream in the novel. He loves her greatly, and though she is usually cold, cruel,
and seems disinterested in him she really cares for him. As they grow up
together, she repeatedly warns him that she has no heart. Though she does not
know it herself and though Pip does not learn it until almost the end of the
novel, Estella is the daughter of Magwitch, the convict whom Pip aids as a
child. In the end it is shown that Estella does have a heart as She and Pip end
the novel hand in hand, together. Abel Magwitch, the most influential character
in the story, is a fearsome criminal, who escapes from prison at the beginning
of Great Expectations. He terrorizes Pip into doing what he wanted. Pipís
kindness makes a deep impression on him in the end, and he therefore devotes
himself to making a fortune and elevating Pip into a higher social class. Behind
the scenes, he becomes Pip's secret benefactor, funding his education and lavish
lifestyle in London through his lawyer Mr. Jaggars. The main theme of this story
was the separation of social classes. It was shown throughout the novel as Pip
rose from the lower laboring class to the higher upper class. As he rose in rank
he regarded his past family and friends with little respect. He gained an
ĎIím better than youí attitude with them; and attitude similar to the
attitude which his uncle Mr. Pumblechook had displayed earlier in the book. This
theme was prevalent through the whole story and was mirrored in Dickensís
early childhood years as he was forced to work when his father was sent to
prison. When his father returned home after his sentence, Dickens returned to
school and eventually became a law clerk, then a court reporter and then a
novelist. His first book was a big success and from that point on he was a
literary celebrity in England. Dickens wrote this book almost at if it was an
autobiography. It made the elements more valid. This book, as his others, served
as an expression of Dickensís feelings of the time that he lived in and for
that reason this book can be looked at not only as a novel but also as a source
of history. Subsequently, Great Expectations has and will continue to go down as
a classic novel written by a classic Author, Charles Dickens.

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