The novel ‘Great Expectations’ was first published in 1860-1861 and written by Charles Dickens. Dickens uses the idea of the buildungsronam to establish his main characters identity, however he contradicts this genre in some ways as it is the protagonist (Pip) telling the story instead of Dickens himself. This novel was originally three volumes and in the first, we follow the life of Pip from infancy to a young man.
Our first impression of Pip, in chapter 1 reveals him as a ‘small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry’. This establishes him ass a fragile boy in his youth, scared of the world.
From reading chapter two we learn that Pip and Joe share a relationship of ‘equals’ and is ‘raised by hand’ by his sister.
We learn that this novel is a buildungsronam because it is a story of a struggle of a small child, orphaned at a young age, as the grows up. Dickens uses this genre to establish the identity of his protagonist.
As Pip the protagonist takes food to the convict he feels very guilty; so guilty that he imagines that the ox can talk, this illustrates Pip’s characteristics as very imaginative, frightened and has a big conscious.
Dickens uses the setting to convey the characters feelings by use of language such as ‘goblin’ and ‘phantom’ to describe the setting which makes it sound scary, which reflects Pip’s feelings for he is scared. Dickens uses the scenery and setting to symbolise Pip’s feelings. He often uses this method to give an insight to Pip’s emotions, like at Satis House. The darkness of the house represents Pip’s fear of Miss Havisham and he seems to imagine shrilling noises.
The language used by Estella and Miss Havisham show their superiority to Pip, they use more complicated words and longer sentences which Pip fails to understand and Estella calls Pip ‘boy’ which shows she feels superior and wants to undermine him. Pip’s circumstance would rarely occur in Victorian society, the upper class and lower class almost never socialised, only a few people had such good fortune like Pip.
As Pip learns that he is working class, he becomes depressed and feels anger; ‘I took the opportunity to being alone in the courtyard to look at my course hands and my common boots. My opinion of those accessories was not favourable. They had never troubled me before, but they troubled me now, as vulgar appendages’. In a way as Pip goes to see Miss Havisham he looses this innocence and becomes unhappy.
The first person narrative increases the sympathy and understanding we feel towards Pip because he expresses his emotions and reasons for his emotions or action; ‘And my terror was greatest of all, when I found no figure there’. We can also see that his emotions are effected by Estella and the need please her; ‘…I was a common labouring boy; that my hands were coarse…’, so he may gain her favour. We feel sympathy, for he is unable to gain Estella’s love because Miss Havisham raises her to be heard hearted.
After Pip’s visits to Satis House his feelings and relationship alter dramatically, he feels anger and pities Joe, no longer thinking him an equal; his language becomes more sophisticated and he behaves more haughtily. He calls his friends like Joe and Biddy ‘poor creatures’. Pip’s desire to change is reflected in chapter ten; ‘I could take towards making myself uncommon’ and his dissatisfaction can be seen when he says, ‘It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home’. This quote also shows Pip the narrators’ regrets of being dissatisfied and also when it says, ‘It is about the only thing I am glad to know of myself in that connection’, he’s ashamed of how he acted, and realises his mistakes.
At the end of volume one in chapter nineteen we see Pip realises the values of home; ‘I was after I had cried, than before more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle’, this quote typically conveys a bildungsroman, because at the end of a bildungsroman the protagonist assesses himself.
Through reading this novels first volume, in chapter seven we gain understanding of education amongst working class citizens. It is clear that education was very poor, we see this through a letter written by Pip, it is an immature attempt on a chalk board he shows to Joe, who is in awe. Also in chapter ten when pip describes his classroom (pg 75, lines 19-29). Through this we see that Dickens attitude towards education among the poor was that they lacked knowledge to teach themselves but they wished to learn. He makes fun on some of the ideas of Victorian society, such as children should be see and not heard, like the table scene on Christmas day, where Pip’s family sat to eat.
From reading chapters one to nineteen we see tat Pip as the narrator regrets his behaviour during his early years, he has now learnt the values of home. Dickens uses many devices to make the reader feel closer to Pip, we follow him through his childhood and until he is a young adult, his thoughts and emotions are expressed to us which helps the reader establish his identity. Dickens uses language to reflect Pip’s emotions, so when he is frightened the marshes are described as ‘clouds of smoke’ which sounds terrifying.
At the beginning Pip is naive and innocent, he is described as a ‘bundle of shivers’ this is typical of bildungsroman, for the protagonist is often a frail young person, orphaned at a young age.