Character development is oftentimes character driven. Charles Dickens demonstrates this through a story of a young, innocent orphan boy named Philip Pirrup, otherwise known as Pip. Pip goes on various adventures through the novel and meets incredible characters such as Abel Magwitch and Estella (his tasteful love interest). Along the way, their social status and personal views impact his growing personality, change his perspectives, and demonstrably influence his actions. In Charles Dickens Great Expectations, Pip becomes a selfish, ungrateful protagonist once he is exposed to the wealth and influence of Estella and Miss Havisham; however with help of Joe and Magwitch, Pip is able to redeem himself, revealing the powerful nature of unconditional love.
Pip at the outset is content with his place in society; however, once he meets Mrs. Havisham and Estella, his perception of himself and those around him alters and his station changes for the worse.
“I thought how Joe and my sister were then sitting in a kitchen, and how Miss Havisham and Estella never sat in a kitchen, but were far above the level of such common thing. I feel asleep recalling what I “used to do”when i was at Miss Havisham’s as though I had been there weeks or months…”(Dickens 72). This notion of sitting in the kitchen is low-class and less respectable. Servants and maids do work in the kitchen while higher class officials wait for their food to be presented to them in a dining room or place of choice. Pip is considered “common” and after this visit, sees his own family life in a new light.
“The next meal was described without emphasis. We are told that Magwitch wipes his knife on his leg, but by now, Pip is too concerned to hear the convict’s history to have room for shame and revulsion…contains no comment on manners or response” (Lindsay 135)
This shows how Pip grows up in the kitchen, then comes to acknowledge that Magwitch is being impolite, but almost reverts back to his roots and chooses not to care. It is also a coincidence because Estella is Magwitch’s daughter and he is an escaped convict.
“I took the opportunity of being alone in the courtyard, to look at my coarse hands and my common boots. … They had never troubled me before, but they troubled me now, as vulgar appendages” (Dickens 64). Pip is judging himself by his hands and boots that give away that he is in a lower class. If Estella, Miss Havisham’s ward, had not pointed out a difference in his clothing and behavior, Pip would have never judged himself.
“Miss Havisham is ‘positively dreadful’ in her attention to Estella and her attitude to Pip… ‘searching’ of Pip all direct attention beneath the surface of the scene” (Bradbury 88).
Pip was not made aware of these differences until someone pointed out the disparity in social classes. This affects the way that Pip presents himself toward Estella and Miss Havisham because they are socially ranked higher, he wants them to think of him as something more because Pip thinks he is something more.
“What I dreaded was that in some unlucky hour, I, being at my grimiest and commonness, would lift my eyes and see Estella looking in one of the wooden windows of the forge. I was haunted by the fear that she would, sooner or later, find me out with a black face and hands, doing the coarsest part of my work, and would exult over me and despise me” (Dickens 102). Due to Estella and Miss Havisham, Pip believes that his dreams of being a blacksmith is low-class and not “genteel,” even though it is an important job in this society, it is “dirty.”
“…One with the curse of Miss Havisham, which, by its working out, symbolizes the contradictions in a capitalist society” (Tredell 102).
In Britain at this time, status and occupation determined social class. We learn about how Miss Havisham came up and how people who do manual labor are thought of being inferior despite filling a valuable and important societal role. Your job determines how you will be looked upon and treated by others. This influences Pip to change his mind for his love.
Once Pip inherits the wealth, he becomes ungrateful, snobby, and selfish.
“These people hated me with the hatred of cupidity and disappointment. As a matter of course, they fawned upon me in my prosperity with the basest meanness”(Dickens 184).
“Yet this is the great world…he continues to deteriorate, growing more genteel, but also more selfish” (Gillie 160)
Having all of this new inheritance, a change in social status and a love interest all comes into play and begins to affect his personality– he becomes less like his down-to-earth, spunky self, into greedy and selfish ways because he always wants more and needs to be the best.
“I had got on so fast of late, that I had even started a boy in boots—top boots—in bondage and slavery to whom I might have been said to pass my days” (Dickens 160). Pip sees a reflection in himself and finds it ironic that the servant boy that he hired is unskilled, but still has to be dressed properly. I believe that he saw himself; the little boy that had just been exposed to this lifestyle is forced to be like a gentleman.
“‘The novel dramatizes the loss of innocence,’writes Julian Monyhan, ‘and does not glibly present the hope of redemptory second birth for either its guilty hero or the guilty society which shaped him” (Mesiel 126).
Here is a hidden self-reflection from our character. Charles Dickens used this irony to relate to Pip.
Pip is saved from his own self destruction and funds to find redemption through unconditional love.
“I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier in my society and less open to Estella’s reproach” (Dickens 103). Miss Havisham has provided Pip with resources and opportunities that make him much more educated than how he was previously. His relationship with Joe and his apprenticeship under him has changed because he believes that Joe is uneducated, but realizes that his character and nobility is so much higher than others in the high parts of society, which make him seem more respectable.
“Joe shows true inner dignity; Pip only has a sense of the importance of appearances, of the ostensible evidence gentri hood. He is if not quite a hollow sham, on the way to becoming one, when truth about the basis not only of his vanity but of Estella’s pride is shockingly revealed to him. She, it turns out, Is the daughter of a murderer and that same convict, Abel Magwitch, whom Pip as a little boy on the marshes long ago helped to escape” (Gille 161).
These two situations can be compared because Pip is both in a situation where he can see how people are equal. Pip has experience with the upper class and can see how they behave and relates that to how Joe acts. He is in favor of Joe and his personality and doesn’t seem to care about social class>
“We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us” (Dickens 243). Pip reflects on his decisions with money as he is older and more wise now and realizes how irresponsible he was. They were never taught the values that come with wealth and as he aged, he realized that he had made a mistake and is wiser now.
“Upon the return of Magwitch, Pip is forced to wake up and recognize that life, after all, was not a fairy tale. He learns that his own wealth comes from a criminal, that even the magical figures of Satis House, Miss Havisham and Estella have criminal connections, and, as we have seen, that his callous treatment of Joe Gargery was essentially criminal.(Moynahan 110).
This misuse of the money and glory makes him reflect on his treatment of who he used to adore. Pip worked at Joe’s apprenticeship and wanted to be a blacksmith, but once Estella raised his expectations, he gave up on Joe. But Estella is also Magiwitch’s daughter! So even though Estell, this woman he has adored so much was related to criminal, she was as low as him, and just about the lower than Joe the blacksmith. His decisons were saught to be stupid.
Pip grows throughout the story to learn an important life lesson on changing who you are for other people. External influences, particularly from other characters, had impacted Pip’s way of thinking throughout his life, but he grew to understand the importance of a self-arrived perspective. Pip experienced misfortune before learning that love always wins and it comes from deep down; not your social status, wealth, or job.