In Great Expectations, Dickens shows compassion for Pip in many ways. It may be through the way the story turns out. It may be how he reacts with the other characters or the way the other characters react with him and what he does.
For example Dickens shows compassion from page 1. It quite clearly states on the first page that Pip’s parents are both dead. This is a historical fact of the times and it was not uncommon for children to be orphans, obviously due to poorer state of health care in the Victorian ages and the people having less knowledge on medicine, life expectancy was a lot lower. ” As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of them either (for these days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding of what they were like was from their tombstones.” So even though Pip’s parents are dead Dickens shows compassion by still giving him a home to live in during the story with his sister Mrs. Joe Gargery. Whereas if you had no parents, normal during this time period you would have been in an orphanage This shows compassion as he did not give the character that disadvantage in life.
He also shows compassion to Pip on page one again as Pip states that his five brothers had died during birth. This was again a historical and social fact of the time and was not uncommon. Many children did not survive through childbirth. “Sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine”. This shows compassion because made it to be Pip that he was the only one to survive.
On page two Dickens once again shows compassion very early on in the book were Pip’s life is spared. Pip meets an escaped convict on the moors and the convict threatens to slit this throat but eventually lets him go under an agreement. This is a historical fact of pre 1914; many people were locked up in prisons during these times for things people today would not be. Such as being poor. This led to overcrowded prisons and prisoners having to be kept in boats on the sea. Escapes by convicts were common. “Keep still you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!” These were the words spoken to Pip. He then pleads “O! Don’t cut my throat sir”. The convict then lets him go on the agreement to bring back food. This shows compassion to Pip as Dickens lets him go free for the time being.
Dickens again shows compassion for Pip a little further on in the book at page 7, when Pip returns from the moors to his house and his sister is out looking for him and his been for quite a considerable amount of time. “Mrs. Joe has been out dozens of times, looking for you Pip. And now she’s out making it a bakers dozen” This quote shows compassion for Pip because he obviously has people around him who care for him, because otherwise she would have been looking for him. Even though the character may not be very compassionate on the outside when she finally finds Pip. “Where have you been, you young monkey?” said Mrs. Joe stamping her foot. ” Tell me directly what you’ve been doing to wear me away with fret and fright”. This shows compassion to the character from Dickens because even though the may have bin told off severely, the fact that is says “fret and fright” show the Mrs. Joe deep down cares for him, therefore again being shown compassion.
Then on page 8 he is again shown compassion due to way he has been brought up. During the time period that Dickens has set his story children were often treated a lot different from the adults. Although this is true in some of Pip’s lifestyle it is not in all. In the book it quite clearly shows Mrs. Joe dealing out food to her husband and Pip and giving them the same amount. This shows compassion as the story could have been written as the adults were to get more and Pip to have whatever is left, but in this story it is not the case. “My sister had a trenchant way of cutting out bread-and-butter for us, that never varied”. This quote on page 8 backs up what I was saying about the food distribution.
I also feel a lot of compassion is shown towards Pip in the relationship he has with his sisters husband the Blacksmith, Mr. Joe Gargery. I believe this because it seems to me that Joe treats him as an equal rather than a superior and that to me shows compassion for Pip. For example when Joe says “Pip, old chap! You’ll do yourself a mischief. It’ll stick somewhere, you can’t have chawed it Pip”. The phrase “old chap” to me shows a great deal of camaraderie between the two characters rather than a Father-Son relationship. A relationship like this would have been very strange though however in these times. It was commonly thought during this period children should be seen and not heard and for an adult to treat a child this way was very peculiar. I also believe he is shown compassion in this quote because instead of shouting at Pip he talks to him and tries to make him see the error of his ways. I think this shows compassion as during these times the man of the house would probably wanted to have stamped his authority on the situation and exerted himself more. Whereas I feel Joe talks to him with a lot more compassion.
My final point about Dickens showing compassion is the fact that Pip manages to get away with stealing the food for the convict from his house, which they hardly had any of. The way Mrs Joe Gargery reacts though when she discovers the food was gone was not uncommon. This is because pre 1914, a family who was being kept by a blacksmith would have probably taking in very little money and would have needed every morsel of food they could obtain.
I feel this shows compassion because if Dickens had no compassion for this character he would have let him be caught.