Through the characters Dickens has created in “Great Expectations” he paints a picture to show us the way in which people’s actions are influenced wholly by those they come into contact with throughout their lives. In “Great Expectations”, which follows the dreams and aspirations of a young, innocent boy through to reaching manhood, Philip Pirrip, more commonly known as Pip, is influenced by many characters. In this essay, I am going to try to pinpoint the most influential character or significant issue that directly affects Pip.
When we initially meet Pip, he is a semi-illiterate boy with “just enough learning to be able to spell,” from a very lower class background, trying to build images of his parents and siblings, all of which have passed away, excluding one. This is Mrs. Joe Gargery, his elder sister, married to Mr. Joe Gargery, the local blacksmith. She is over 20 years his senior and is a mother figure for Pip. Mrs. Joe is seen as superior to both Pip and Joe.
I think Mrs. Joe influences Pip from a very early stage in his life by bringing him up to be an honest and pure child. Pip, having been raised by this strict disciplinarian, supposed that both he and Joe Gargery were “both brought up by hand” and corrected by use of Tickler, Mrs Joe’s frequently used whip. Pip learnt very early on that he was an inferior member of the family and was taught to be very grateful for even this as, without his sister; he would have ended up with either poor health or dead.
Biddy takes on a major role in influencing Pip after Mrs Joe has an unfortunate accident. In order to nurse Mrs Joe and to make sure Pip and Joe manage well, she moves into the forge. She not only works as a housekeeper in the forge, but also acts as Pip’s confidant and is the one person other than Joe and Herbert that he trusts during the whole of his life. He tells his problems to Biddy who gives him advice and tries to help and guide him through. Pip entrusts Biddy with his innermost feelings and thoughts, including his passion for Estella, the young girl he is belittled by in his childhood and soon “reposes complete confidence in no one but Biddy.” They talk fairly frequently and Pip begins to think that all she says is correct.
Prior to gaining knowledge of his expectations, Pip reveals to Biddy his secret wish of becoming a gentleman, thereby acquiring equal social status to Estella. Her first instinct is to reject the idea because she deems it to be for the wrong reasons, but when Pip elaborates on the subject, she tries to talk him out of the notion stating “You know best, Pip; but don’t you think you are happier as you are?”
When Pip learns that his “great expectations” may be fulfilled, due to a generous benefactor, he recounts the whole concept to Biddy and once he has elucidated, she tells him that she thinks he is making a mistake. Pip, surprised and upset by this, suggests it is because she is jealous of him. “Now Biddy, I am very sorry to see this in you. You are envious, Biddy, and grudging. You are dissatisfied on account of my rise in fortune, and you can’t help showing it.”
Before he sets out to be a gentleman, Pip wonders what it might be like to be in love with Biddy instead of Estella. She is the absolute contrast to Estella and is portrayed as “never insulting, or capricious, or Biddy to-day and somebody else to-morrow,” and furthermore, “she would have derived only pain and no pleasure, from giving him pain.” This causes Pip to question his passion for Estella “How could it be that I did not like her much the better of the two?”
After Pip has fulfilled his expectations, he thinks of going back to Kent and taking Biddy as his wife. He is fully aware that he does not love her with the same ardour as he does Estella, but still respects and loves her enough to marry her. These plans are destroyed when Pip does go back to Kent though, as he walks in on Joe and Biddy’s wedding day.
Pip is influenced by Biddy, in my opinion, because she teaches him the true values of things. In certain aspects of his life she shows him how she thinks he should act. For example when Pip leaves Kent to go to London, she expresses her views on the matter, clearly making him think about what he is going to do.
Another more controversial person in Pip’s life is Miss Havisham. Pip’s first impression of her is as a most frightening and strange woman, “an immensely rich and grim lady,”
Miss Havisham has a large impact on Pip’s views of society and the class system by making him aware of the differences between his background and that of the upper-classes. Introducing Pip to Estella, her adopted daughter, she encourages her to be rude and insulting towards him, telling her ‘you can break his heart.’ She has a strong hatred for all men and uses Pip as a mere ‘implement’ to wreak revenge on the male gender. Pip becomes more self-aware and self-critical in Miss Havisham’s presence, and starts to feel dissatisfied with his social status. He sees his background as “coarse,” “common” and unacceptable.
Wanting to make a visit to Estella after he has started his apprenticeship with Joe, Pip takes himself to Satis house. Miss Havisham informs him that Estella is abroad on a “Grande Tour”; and tells Pip of all her admirers and of how she is even more beautiful now than she was before. Pip is obviously devastated by this news but accepts it as inevitable. Miss Havisham’s response to his loss is “malignant enjoyment.”
Pip becomes less sensitive under the manipulation of Miss Havisham and more scrutinizing and critical. His interest in becoming a gentleman to fit in with the upper-class becomes more intense, rather than a pursuit of happiness. He develops a trace of a toffee-nosed attitude when he hears of his “great expectations.”
“Henceforth I was for London and greatness.” This shows us Miss Havisham’s behaviour towards under classed people rubbing off on Pip.
When distanced from Miss Havisham, he views her in a new light and looks upon her as his “fairy godmother” believing for a long period that it is she who is his mystery benefactor.
Herbert Pocket’s second encounter with Pip is when they meet together after Pip has learned of his “Great Expectations” and has moved to London. During his time in London, Pip is to reside with the Pocket family. He is sent to Barnard’s Inn and is told to go to young Mr. Pocket’s rooms “where there has been a bed sent in for his accommodation” Herbert’s father, Mr. Matthew Pocket, had decided that Pip would get along better in the company of his son, and so Pip’s future living arrangements were with Herbert.
The first instance they met together was at Miss Havisham’s home when Herbert had challenged Pip to a fight regardless of the fact that they were still strangers. Immediately having entered through the door of Pip’s new residence and facing one another, there was instant recognition in their faces. “Lord bless me, you’re the prowling boy!” is how Herbert reacted to Pip, who responded with “And you, are the pale young gentleman!”
In the first hours of meeting again, both men show that they are very compatible and will have no trouble living together. Herbert is from an upper-class aristocratic background and has been brought up by his parents to be a generous, loving and laid back gentleman. Pip has many questions for Herbert, all of which are answered, no matter how long or short the replies may be. He learns all about Miss Havisham’s background and how it came to be that she wore the same bridal garments each day, and why all the clocks are stopped at twenty minutes to nine.
Herbert has a slightly different personality in some ways, somewhat peculiar, and in others mainly humorous. He refers to Pip’s christian name of Philip as “a moral boy out of a spelling book” and asks him if he would mind Handel for a familiar name as there is a charming piece of music, called the Harmonious Blacksmith, which makes him think of Pip, considering his having been a blacksmith at one point.
When he first gets together with the Pocket family and dines with them Pip learns more of Mr Matthew Pocket’s background. He discovers that Matthew is the cousin of Miss Havisham and had been educated at Harrow, and Cambridge, both very respectable public higher educational establishments.
Pip is given an allowance to decorate and furnish his shared flat and after living with Herbert for a small number of months, Pip starts to develop a rich taste for things. Herbert becomes his close companion and friend. Pip presents his friend with a half share in his boat. Also, he tells Herbert of his affection for Estella, to which he is surprised to know that Herbert has already guessed he is in love with her. He does, however, try and warn Pip about her, “This may lead to miserable things.”
On Pip’s 21st birthday, Herbert and he find themselves in tremendous debt. They cannot keep spending money without getting into more financial difficulty. Pip sees Mr. Jaggers and is given a bank note for five hundred pounds. Even though Pip is now changing and becoming more superior, his humble side is shown when he is with Herbert and all of Joe’s influence is greatly reflected in his attitude. He wants to help Herbert with his finances too, but is advised very much against it. Instead, Pip goes to Wemmick, who helps him to get a shipping job for Herbert.
Two years later, having just turned 23, Pip is introduced to his benefactor, Abel Magwitch. Herbert is the only person, at the time, that Pip has enough trust in to be able to tell but nevertheless he is still horrified. Even though Herbert is shocked at the revelation of Pip’s true patron, as soon as he hears news of Compeyson, Magwitch’s arch enemy, watching him, he has the initiative to remove Magwitch and take him to Dover.
While Herbert and Wemmick help Pip in making arrangements for Magwitch, the word soon reaches Orlick, Joe’s former employee, of how Magwitch is an escaped convict and sends Pip an anonymous letter to meet him on the marshes if he wants to know more. This is an attempt to murder Pip, however, but his plans are thwarted and shattered when Herbert and Wemmick come and rescue him. Pip is ever more grateful towards them.
Following Magwitch’s death, Herbert is to be married to Clara, his own true love. He is to move out abroad and resume his job there. Knowing Pip is in debt and has no one else to turn to; Hebert offers Pip a job abroad with him. Clara insists that he come too and live with them for as long as he needs. Not wanting to be a burden, Pip turns down the offer at first, then realising that he is in fact, completely isolated, sells up and goes out to join his dear friend abroad.
Pip learns a great deal of things from Herbert. In many ways, I believe Joe and Herbert are much alike, in making sure that Pip has both feet planted firmly on the ground. When Pip was a mere child, it was Joe who loved Pip and raised him as his own son, and when he became a gentleman, it was Herbert who acted the part of his family, resembling a much loved and respected brother.
Brought up by Miss Havisham, Estella is a sophisticated and educated beautiful young woman. She was taught to hate men and to make men love her so he could break their hearts. Herbert Pocket describes her to Pip as “Hard and haughty and capricious to the last degree.” This illustrates Estella’s being in one go. Miss Havisham had adopted Estella to be loved by men. Miss Havisham states clearly that “I stole her heart away and put ice in it’s place.”
Pip has always seen Estella through ‘rose-coloured glasses.’ As a young boy, Pip sees her as a “very proud, very pretty, and very insulting” girl. He does not realise that she has set out to break his heart as he is literally ‘blinded by love’. The more gentlemanly Pip grows; he becomes further infatuated with her and refuses to believe that she is incapable of loving him back. He “believed her to be human perfection.” Pip is convinced that their ‘relationship’ was meant to be. Also he accepts as true that Miss Havisham adopted Estella and had pretty much adopted him and so, of course they were supposed to be together.
After many years absents, Pip goes to revisit Satis house and meets an “elegant lady whom he had never seen before.” When he recognises her to be his beloved Estella he is in awe. He feels inferior to her yet again, without even having said anything to her.
“I slipped hopelessly back into the coarse and common again.”
The couple reminisce about their past and laugh together. Estella tells Pip that she has no heart and cannot return the love and affection he feels for her. “I have a heart to be stabbed in or shot in, I have no doubt, but I have no softness there, no – sympathy – sentiment – nonsense.”
Pip is noticeably distraught over Estella’s confession to him. He loves her too much to possibly believe that this can be true. Miss Havisham is well aware for Pip’s already excessive love for Estella and yet orders him to love her even more. She describes what he should feel for her, as “Blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself, the whole world, giving up your heart and soul to the smiter.”
Having already given up his old and simplistic lifestyle, including his dearest Joe, to become a gentleman, Pip does everything in his power to make Estella love him but fails as she proves to be heartless. Miss Havisham never showed her any love of any kind and this prevents her from feeling love for anyone else. This makes Pip even more determined to be the One she did love. She tries time and time again to warn Pip of her cold-heartedness but in vain. “You will get me out of your thoughts in a week.”
When Pip learns that Estella is getting married to Bently Drummle, a rather ill mannered man, he begs and pleads with her. “I thought and hoped you could not mean it…You would never marry him, Estella?” She makes a weak attempt to comfort him by letting him know that it is not for love, but Pip is still distraught. While in denial, Estella puts him straight, “Why not tell you the truth? I am going to be married to him.”
Whilst investigating the history of Abel Magwitch, Pip’s sponsor, he finds out how Estella came to be adopted by Miss Havisham. The identity of Estella’s true parents was kept a secret, even from her. Pip discovers that the little baby daughter Magwitch had left behind when he got sent to the Hulks, was in fact Estella. Pip now knows that she is the daughter of his benefactor. Knowing that his beloved is from the poorest, most under-classed background however, does not change his views of Estella at all. She still remains his dearest love.
On their last encounter in the final pages of “Great Expectations,” they are both coincidently outside the grounds of Satis House, where they first met. After not having seen each other in eleven years, they have both changed and moved on. Pip had obtained a job with Herbert abroad, and Estella had been married and had become a widow. Having lost everything, apart from the plot of land on which Satis House once stood, Estella has changed and is now humble as opposed to before her marriage when she was an extremely cold and over proud woman. “I have been bent and broken but – I hope – into a better shape.”
From when he was only seven years of age, Pip has been greatly influenced by Estella. She shows him a whole new world full of opportunities and prospects available to him. Opening his eyes to the cruel happenings of the world, Estella leads Pip away from the easy and simple life towards the difficult and complicated. She lets him know how it is to love somebody so much, and yet still have no chance of being with them. Even though she tells him she is a heartless person and does not know what love feels like, Estella gives Pip a place in her newly found heart, which will forever remain his. “I have given you a place in my heart.” Having started as two children who played cards in the presence of an old lady, Pip and Estella mature into two fully developed adults with a blossoming friendship.
“Ever the best of friends aren’t us Pip.” is Joe’s perception of their relationship. Pip, however, looks upon Joe as a “mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy going, foolish, dear fellow – a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness.”
The trust between the pair is made clear right at the beginning of the book. Pip knows that he can turn to Joe at anytime when and if he needs. For example, after his first day at Satis House with Miss Havisham, he tells everyone of what a wonderful time he had had and invents great tales of a black velvet coach, cake, wine, dogs, swords and pistols. Later on however, he confides in Joe as he feels he can keep nothing from him. The only secret Pip ever keeps from Joe is that of the convict on the marshes.
Pip refers to Joe as “a larger species of child” and “no more than his equal.” In a sense this stands to be true but after close inspection, it becomes obvious that Joe acts more as a father figure towards Pip than the brother-in-law that he is.
Accepting his good fortune, Pip decides it is time for him to move on from Kent and leaves for London. Joe realises the growing gap between them but never stops caring or that will they regain their relationship. Pip’s growing dissatisfaction and embarrassment of his background leads him to become totally separated from Joe. When Joe comes to London to visit Pip, the feelings provoked in Pip by this event, are not of happiness or pleasure, but of “considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen sense of incongruity.”
At the age of 23, Pip realises what has happened to him and how much he has changed, following his meeting with his true patron. He appreciates the values that he has picked up from Joe and finally learns that Joe’s contented way of life is what he desires for himself: pure, clean and honest. Often he finds himself feeling guilty about turning his back on Joe; this leads him to believe that it is too late to revert back to his old simplistic lifestyle. He envies Joe but does not begrudge him.
After his benefactor dies, Pip falls ill with stress and debts; Joe immediately comes to his aid and nurses him back to good health. Joe leaves Pip as soon as he is feeling better, and the only trace of his presence is a note left behind addressed to Pip. Joe also secretly repays all of his debts with the little money he has.
“I had never dreamed of Joe’s having paid the money; but Joe had paid it, and the receipt was in his name.”
This again shows Joe’s unquestionable love for Pip. Throughout the whole novel, Joe shows nothing but unconditional love and support for Pip and even when he later rejects him, Joe remains forever faithful and loyal.
Abel Magwitch, Pip’s Benefactor, is, in my opinion, the biggest single influence on Pip’s development. He opens Pip’s eyes to the world around him making him notice, perhaps unwillingly, the complications and predicaments that may arise from being in a diverse position in the country’s more upscale social structure. After giving birth to all of Pip’s wishes, Magwitch rips him away from the drone of the dull and tedious lifestyle he is used to, and accustoms him to a new and exciting way of life.
The cause of Magwitch’s wanting to make Pip into a gentleman is because Pip had once “acted nobly” towards him and had stolen from his family “a file and some whittles.” The whittles being food, and the file to remove the ‘tell-tale’ leg iron from long ago. He had just escaped from the Hulks and was starving and freezing to death out on the Kent marshes, when he came across Pip in the church graveyard and frightened him into stealing.
The “old and grey” man that comes to visit Pip, claiming to be his anonymous benefactor, is completely the opposite of Pip’s hopes. He wants to believe that it is Miss Havisham who backs him, and not the complete stranger that had just walked into his flat. Pip does not even realise until he inspects closely, that the man standing in front of him, is the escaped convict from out on the marshes, some 16 years ago. “No need to take a file from his pocket; no need to take the handkerchief from his neck; no need to hug himself and take a shivering turn across the room.”
Pip had never even considered the possibility that Magwitch would turn out to be his benefactor and his reaction when he finds out the true identity of this patron is to be disappointed, disgusted, and horrified; and yet, it suddenly ‘clicks’ in Pip’s mind of how full of betrayal his life has been since he had left the forge. “He had been betrayed and has betrayed others.”
On the other hand, Magwitch is immensely proud to be the benefactor of such an enormous success that he has made of a gentleman. He refers to the books that Pip has been able to buy, on account of his sponsorship. “Your books too, ‘mounting up, on their shelves by hundreds!”
After getting over the initial surprise, Pip gets to know a bit about Magwitch and his background. Magwitch was abandoned as a child and being illiterate, he did not have many chances to get on in life. He had to resort to the life of crime and did almost everything in order to stay alive. An opportunity to work with a proper gentleman came along for the young Magwitch and with Compeyson; he came to ‘specialising’ in “swindling handwriting forging, stolen bank-note passing, and suchlike.” His basic life story was being “in jail and out of jail.” Knowing this, Pip appreciates how hard Magwitch must have worked, along with how difficult hiding from the police must be.
At the time of which Magwitch is being followed, Pip redeems himself by caring so much. He makes plans for Magwitch, and decides to move out of the country with him for a while, until it is safe again. The two men bond together over the short period they have really known each other and get to be familiar with each other.
Although they have changed their lifestyles with the help of each other, both Pip and Magwitch made certain sacrifices to do so. Pip gave up his secure future with Joe and Biddy, in order to move to London, and Magwitch put his life on the line for Pip to see how he was doing fulfilling his “Great Expectations.” They learn to cooperate together and rely on each other as a father and son would do in the last few days of being together.
Magwitch gets caught on the boat on the way to meet the ship sailing to Germany as a result of Compeyson following him. While Compeyson dies, Magwitch is left in failing health and the poorest conditions, and too ill to even attend his own death sentence trial, he receives the death penalty. Pip’s compassionate side shines through at this point and before Magwitch dies, he learns all about his daughter, Estella, her upbringing, and Pip’s love for her.
Money has a big part in Pip’s influence too, as it makes him feel as if he is above others. It changes his views and perceptions of people. For example once he had thought that Joe was the perfect companion, but when he comes into money, Joe is no longer suitable company for Pip as he is superior to Joe. The change from lower to upper class fazes him greatly too. Both money and class put together in my opinion is the biggest influence on Pip.
Pip is influenced by many characters and happenings, but at no time through his life is he completely alone with no where to go and no one to talk to. There is always at least one person in his life that he can relate to.
Having had no real family in his life, I think Joe and Magwitch influence Pip the most through resembling a father figure to him. Overall, I think Magwitch should take most of the credit for shaping Pip into the man that stands before us, as without him, Pip would not have ended up in the gentlemanly stature that he has become, and although it is not the characteristics or exemplifications that Pip has actually learnt from Magwitch, the influence is greatest from him in two ways. The first being he put this life in danger for Pip when he left Australia to come back to England, and the second is that everything he has done since they first met in graveyard has been for Pip. Had it not been, Pip’s development would most probably have been influenced mostly by Joe or Biddy, but since it is Magwitch’s initial subconscious
influence, Pip has the likelihood to be influenced by Estella more than before, and also by Herbert, more so than Biddy.
My answer to the title question of “Who or What do You Think Has The Most Influence On Pip’s Development?” is money. It changes him, and ‘brainwashes’ him. Pip is a gullible individual, and the money allows for people to easily intercept in his way of thinking and living and change it given the slightest possibility.