Essay, Research Paper: Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

Literature: Charles Dickens

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Moral Maturity In Charles Dickens' novel, Great Expectations, the main character
Pip undergoes a constant moral maturing. Pip's original childhood innocence was
stripped of him when he began to desire material wealth and influence. His fear
of certain characters like Mrs. Joe and Magwitch inspired him to do some
undesirable things. Next, when Pip was in London being supported by his convict,
he spent his money recklessly in an attempt to gratify himself. Finally, after
Pip realized the truth about people, his formerly selfish attitude turned
altruistic and he accepted others for whom they are: not for what they look
like. In Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations, Pip experienced three basic
stages of moral maturity: fear, self- satisfaction, and altruism. The first
stage Pip went through relative to his moral development was fear. in this
stage, Pip's main excuse for his actions was his fear of punishment. Fear can
inspire a person to think irrationally and make him/her aware only of
themselves. Reacting out of fear is natural, but it must be overcome sooner or
later to spur on further growth as a person. Pip displayed this weakness because
Mrs. Joe was constantly beating and threatening him. This kind of behavior made
Pip very sensitive and easily swayed in his thoughts. In this quote, Pip is
inspired by fear to lie to his sister and Mr. Pumblechook, '7 was perfectly
frantic - a reckless witness under the torture - and would have told them
anything." (ch. 9 pg. 97) Another specific example of Pip acting out of
fear was when he met Magwitch, his convict, on the marshes and was told to bring
him a file and some whittles or else Pip's liver would be ripped out by the
convict's friend. This incident spurred Pip on to steal from Mrs. Joe and lie to
his family. Acting out of fear is the least mature response to a situation. This
response of Pip's signifies his inability to manage his own life in the future.
Next, Pip's actions are encouraged by self-interest. This stage of maturity is
probably the most common stage displayed in people. Pip's desire for
self-satisfaction leaves him eventually with a broken heart, no money, and
distance from his dearest friends, Joe and Biddy. This stage in Pip's life was
brought about primarily through his infatuation with Estella and ultimately by
his new fortune which Magwitch secretly bestowed upon him. Even though Pip had
almost everything he could desire materially, he was not truly happy as one can
perceive from this quote, "'...Fortune alone has raised me; that is being
very lucky. And yet when I think of Estella- .... I cannot tell you how
dependent and uncertain I feel.,, (ch. 30, pg. 269) Sadly enough, Pip still
feels as though he must have everything if he wants to be a
"gentleman," so he joins an elite club, Finches of the Grove, buys
expensive furnishings and hires a housekeeper. This reckless spending of money
does not make Pip truly happy because he is not being true to himself. Pip
displayed this haughty attitude up until the point when he discovered that
Magwitch was his benefactor, not Mrs. Havisham. This single event seems to
shatter Pip's ever growing ego and turn him into the true gentleman he wants to
be. Finally, Pip's change from self-satisfaction to altruism is indeed very
noble. Pip realizes that he should not judge others based on appearance, but
rather on who they are on the inside. This point of change was made only after
spending time with Magwitch and realizing how much he was grateful to him and
how much Magwitch loved him. Pip stays true to the end with Magwitch and never
abandons him as shown when Pip states, "I will never stir from your side...
when I am suffered to be near you. Please God, I will be as true to you as you
have been to me." (ch. 54, pg. 457) This goes to prove that people can
change, but only after they experience love. Pip's unconditional love for
Magwitch was definite because he had nothing to gain from him. Only now does Pip
realize how much he has missed in life and how sorry he is for missing it. His
apology to Joe and Biddy shows that they are forgiving characters and that Pip
is now one of them. Pip's acting out of the goodness of his heart demonstrates
that deep down inside, he was a sort of hero to himself. In Charles Dickens'
novel, Great Expectations, the main character Pip undergoes a constant moral
maturing. This development in Pip's nature is whole and just needed some
prodding to show itself. Pip began as an innocent child, became corrupted by
fear, pursued wealth through material goods, and finally learned that true
happiness came from within. By doing generous and kind acts, people can be even
happier than if they owned everything in the world. Pip's maturing was indeed
admirable. Even through all of his hardships and misfortunes of the mind, Pip
manages to end up a respectable, true gentleman.
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