Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations in 1860-1861. The book is written in the past tense through the eyes of an older Pip and is narrated by Pip himself – Auto-Diagesis. The book has many themes and symbols and has become a classic in today’s world.
We first come across a boy named Pip sitting in a graveyard staring at his parents’ gravestone. The situation is unappealing and the churchyard is surrounded by fog and mist, a symbol, which represents danger and uncertainty. Pip is seized by Magwitch and is very threatening toward Pip, threatening to slit his throat and eat his liver, which Pip takes literally. Pip is terrified and is filled with fear whereas Magwitch has power and control. After Magwitch tells Pip to get him food, Pip run off but keeps looking back at Magwitch, which suggests sympathy and compassion of him. Pip and Magwitch are similar as they both have rough backgrounds. Pip is an orphan and Magwitch is a convict, but they are both lonely and hard done by. Magwitch is introduced so early in the book because he is a part of Pips’ destiny.
We are then introduced to Mrs. Joe who is angry, nagging and fierce. She shows no love or compassion towards Pip or her husband Joe. Mrs. Joe is Pips’ sister and adoptive mother but she treats him with resentment coldness. Any love that Pip receives is from his adoptive father, Joe, who is more like a friend or big brother than a father. Mrs. Joe treats them both as children.
Pip obeys Magwitch and brings him a file and some whiskey as well as a pork pie, all of which Pip stole from his “family” pantry. It is deeply symbolic when Magwitch uses the file to free himself of the leg irons and shackles because later on in the novel, Pip has to free himself of his family and face the consequences of doing so.
Pip decides not to tell Joe that he stole the pork pie, file and whiskey because he doesn’t want to lose Joes friendship and respect. Although Joe is slow thinking he has very high values. “Joe would think worse of me than I was”, says Pip.
Magwitch is later caught but shows compassion towards Pip by saying that he had stolen the pork pie and whiskey. Pip helps Magwitch, now Magwitch helps Pip; they have in effect become partners in crime.
At the Christmas dinner, Uncle Pumblechook is the person with the highest status and is not humble in his ways. He is a local tradesman selling corn. This is important because one of the books themes is Town Vs. Country. At the dinner we see that Pip is growing up in very humble surrounding. He is unloved and surrounded by people who don’t like him; they think he’s ungrateful. Joe stand out like a sore thumb because he is clearly the only friend Pip has, and we see that when Pip met Magwitch he shows Joes qualities, sympathy, understanding and compassion.
In chapter 7 we learn that Joe was brought up in a household where his father was an aggressive drunk whose father physically abused him and his mother. Joe decided he will not be like that and is it now that we realise that Joe is not weak or stupid but reluctant to make the same mistakes him father did. Pip learns tolerance, compassion and respect from Joe. Joe is worthy of respect and Pips’ respect is highest for Joe now soon before he has to leave for Satis house.
When Pip first goes to Satis house, he is introduced to Mrs. Havisham and Estella. He is immediately insulted by Estella, a person he thinks is from a high social upbringing than him, but how wrong he is because as we read further on we learn that she is the product of a convict and a murderer.
Estella calls him a “Common Labouring boy” and insults his boots and workers hands. For the first time ever, Pip is ashamed, because for the first time, he has reason to be. Pips judgement is clouded, he wishes he had been more gently brought up and he feels unworthy of Estella.
Satis house is symbolic because from now on, whenever he enters that house he enters a cold place with few morals and less desirable values. Mrs. Havisham wedding dress becomes an ironic symbol of death and her wedding feast and stopped clocks throughout the house symbolize her determined attempt to freeze time by refusing to change anything from the way it was when she was left at the altar on her wedding day.
When Pip returns to his home, he lies to his family about what happened because he feels that they wont understand what happened at the house.
As he sets out to change the way his is, he realised that the first step is to get an education. He asks Biddy to help educate him but it doesn’t take him very far although it does show his desperation.
When the pocket family arrive at Ms. Havishams’ birthday party, we see that they are scummy, very shallow people who are pretending to be nice to her in order to get into her will.
Satis house is also a place where violence is rewarded, we see this after Pip beats up Herbert Pocket and is rewarded with a kiss from Estella, the first sign of acceptance and affection by her. This also gives Pip the impression that there is a change of them getting together which will fuel his change later on.
We also see now that even though Joe is very socially humble, he maintains the highest values that the socially wealthy don’t.
Ms. Havisham gives Pip ï¿½25 to be apprenticed to Joe. “I was truly wretched, I had a strong conviction I would not like Joes trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.” It is here that we see that Pip has changed! He is now ashamed of his home, his education, or lack of, and of his trade.
Pip confides in Biddy that he wants to be a gentleman and as a true friend would do, she gave him good advice and common sense.
A large fortune is delivered to Pip one day by a lawyer called Jaggers from an anonymous benefactor. Pip is initially thinks the benefactor is Ms. Havisham and is lead to believe so. Pip now has “Great Expectations” and must travel to London immediately to start his education as a gentleman.
Mrs. Joe is attacked and becomes a mute, but from her gestures and actions Pip deduces that it must have been Orlick, and from now on Orlick is an enemy of Pips.
Pip, now with money and a bit of power doesn’t think that Orlick is suitable as Ms. Havishams’ Porter and gets Jaggers to fire him. Pip doesn’t think of the consequences because even though Orlick is rude and unsuitable, he still does the job and needs the money to eat.
In London, Pip sees that the legal system seems to favour people of a higher social status and one of the themes to this books is “How much will Pip be corrupted by the influences of his society?”
Pip is trying to acquire the status and lifestyle of a gentleman by buying material goods but he should be focusing on his inner qualities. His friend and now flat mate Herbert Pocket tells him “No man who is a true gentleman at heart ever was…a true gentleman in manner” and once again we see that even though Joe is the lowest social status character in the book, he has all the qualities a true gentleman should have.
Pip is more irresponsible than we think because he gets himself and his best friend Herbert Pocket into debt. He spends more and more money but still remains unhappy. This is another theme “Money cant buy happiness”.
When Joe comes to visit Pip, he constantly addresses Pip as “Sir”. Joe says “Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man’s a blacksmith, and one’s a whitesmith, and one’s a goldsmith, and one’s a coppersmith. Divisions among such must come, and must be met as they come”, Joe arrives at a wise and “prepared to accept” attitude toward the changes in Pip’s social class that have driven them apart. With this quote, Joe tells Pip that he does not blame him for the awkwardness of their meeting
Pip goes to visit Estella, but has to travel with convicts. This reminds us that he will always have convicts in his life, no matter how much he dislikes it. When he gets there, Estella tells Pip that the people who were “fit” company for him before are not “fit” for his company now because he is a gentleman. He decides not to visit Joe or Biddy because he now regards them as below him and we see that he has become very shallow. He is now trying to shut out all the people that he thinks are lower than him.
Although it was Pips decision to shut out Joe, Biddy and other people from his past out of his life, he feels very guilty for doing so. When Pip goes back to see Biddy because he feels guilty, we notice that Biddy is like Pips’ conscience. Biddy ad Estella are opposite in their actions and influences. Estella toys with Pip and brings out the worst in him whereas Biddy brings out the best in him.
Pip is 21 years old now and has been given complete control of his money but he doesn’t tell Herbert this. Pip realises the innate goodness of Herbert pocket and sees that Herbert is a true friend. Pip arranges for Herbert to be given an annual sum of money and we see that when Pip changes, he doesn’t change completely. You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.
When Magwitch returns, Pip has to come to terms with that fact the Magwitch is his benefactor. Magwitch tells Pip that “I have made you a gentleman” and this highlights the point of the difference between a gentleman with assets and lifestyle and a gentleman with virtuous inner qualities.
As Pip spends more time with Magwitch, he realises that Magwitch is returning a favour. Magwitch knows from past experience that being a gentleman gives you more advantages, especially in court, which is why Magwitch wants Pip to be a gentleman.
Pip is extremely angry with Ms. Havisham for leading him on and telling him that she was his benefactor. He goes back to see her but sees Estella too. Estella tells him that “I am incapable of love” and we see that she is starting to show signs of morality. Ms. Havisham knows that she is a terrible person and has behaved despicably and begs Pip for forgiveness before throwing herself into the fire.
Pip also realises how badly he has behaved and returns to Joe and Biddy to ask for forgiveness. When he asks Biddy for forgiveness, he asks for her to marry him too, but learns quickly that she is in fact getting married to Joe.
We also learn that stone cold Jaggers, a person who shows very little emotion and compassion is capable of morality when we find out that he saved Estella. Orlick, after robbing Pumblechook, is now in jail; Miss Havisham has died and left most of her fortune to the Pockets; Biddy has taught Joe how to read and write. Most importantly we learn the Estella, a person who Pip has always thought to be a person of higher social standard and status is in fact the product of a murderer and a convict, Magwitch being her real father and “Tigress”, Jaggers’ housekeeper who strangled a person with her bare hands is her mother.
At this point of the story, there is a clear emphasise on the morality wheel turning.
Pip is starting to learn what is really important and has already changed for the better. Pip goes to work for Herbert Pocket and has found happiness and fulfilment from working hard. Pip pays off all his debts, which earlier Joe had helped him, and goes off to the country only to return 11 years later. He discovers that Joe and Biddy have a child called “little Pip” and Pip fell completely and utterly at home with these people, and it reminds him in a good way of when he was a child.
Pip has changed back to good. It was Estella’s influence that changed him for the worse and Pip has lived without her for 11 years. He meets Estella again and she has changed for the better through suffering from her abusive husband. Through suffering, she has learned to love. Pips obsession with trying to be good enough for Estella turned him bad.