Great Expectations Essay, Research Paper
Most readers are appalled at the cold-hearted and cruel ways of Estella, but any criticism directed at her is largely undeserved. She was simply raised in a controlled environment where she was, in essence, brainwashed by Miss Havisham. Nonetheless, her demeanor might lead one to suspect that she was a girl with a heart of ice. Estella is scornful from the moment she is introduced, when she remarks on Pip’s coarse hands and thick boots. However, her beauty soon captivates Pip and she is instilled as the focal point of his thoughts for much of the remainder of the novel. The fact that Pip becomes infatuated with her is also not Estella’s fault. By no means is there any evidence that she loved him. She does not flirt with him in any way. Rather, she tortures Pip with her cruel treatment. Despite her abhorrent quality, Estella is extremely candid; because she seems to have no need for affection, she is able to tell things as she sees them without a thought of what someone else may think. This is in contrast to Pip’s obsession of his every action being approved by Miss Havisham and Estella. Estella is also quite intelligent. She is very aware of the manner in which Miss Havisham raised her. She tells Miss Havisham, “I am what you have made me. Take all the praise, take all the blame; take all the success, take all the failure; in short, take me.” (Chapter 38). Finally, by the end of the novel, Estella has changed. Through her marriage with Bentley Drummle, she has suffered to learn some valuable life lessons that have transformed her character. Pip remarks on the stark reversal of the once hard Estella, “…what I had never seen before, was the saddened softened light of the once proud eyes; what I had never felt before, was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand.” (Chapter 59).
Joe is the only one of Dickens’ characters who stands opposed to and apart from the main current of action. He stays away from London, for the most part, and only intervenes when needed. He is always present in Pip’s mind, and tends to remind both Pip and the reader of those values in Pip that were crushed during the evolution of his expectations. Joe is an honest and industrious fellow, although he sometimes comes across as foolish to other characters in the novel. He is also a generous and forgiving man, which is illustrated by his reaction to having some food taken from his house by the convict. Joe tells the convict that he was welcome to it, since it kept the convict from starving. Joe is also the only character in the novel with no real property. All that he counts as his own are his tools; all else, in Joe’s mind, belongs to Mrs. Joe. His freedom from material goods and the desire for them sets him apart from the “gentlemen” like Pumblechook in the novel. Joe was a child of an abusive family; his father was a drunkard and beat Joe and his mother. The epitaph that Joe composes for his father reveals the extent of his forgiving nature. The same epitaph, “Whatsum-er the failings on his part, Remember, reader, he were that good in his hart,” applies to Pip, as well, as he finishes his adventures. Joe is far more significant than the virtuous and kindly blacksmith he appears to be. Dickens refers to him as “holy”, and the cottage has an air of “sanctity” for Pip. Joe is opposed to all false values, and does not present his view in bombastic speeches, but rather within himself and in his convictions. Joe also rejects the importance of property, pretty speech, and manners. Joe is also a very honorable and dignified man, which is sensed immediately by Miss Havisham. His understanding of peopleand his sensitivity allows him to sense intuitively whether he is wanted by Pip or is merely making him uncomfortable. The fire of Joe’s forge is the light of the innate goodness of man, and a light of hope amidst the false lights of the world that Dickens presents in Great Expectations.
Phillip Pirip (Pip):
An understanding of Pip is essential to an understanding of Great Expectations. He is both the central character and narrarator of Great Expectations. The entire story is told through the eyes of an adult Pip, even though Pip is a small child during parts of it. In his early years, Pip was strongly influenced by his guardians, Joe Gargery and his wife, Mrs. Joe. Joe instills a sense of honesty, industry, and friendliness in Pip, while Mrs. Joe does a great deal to contribute to his desires and ambitions through her constant emphasis on pomp and property. Pip is generally good-natured and thoughtful, and very imaginative. His false values, which are bolstered by his love of Estella, decrease the amount of respect that he has for Joe. His alienation from Joe and Joe’s values builds through the second part of the novel, as Pip becomes selfish, greedy, and foolish. During the period when his expectations are intact, his only morally positive act was to secretly help Herbert Pocket into a good position. Upon discovering that Magwitch is his benefactor, a new phase begins in Pip’s moral evolution. At first, Pip no longer feels the same human compassion for Magwitch that he did the first time he saw him out on the marshes. Gradually, Pip changes his perception of Magwitch, unlearning what he has learned. Pip becomes concerned with the man, and not the expectations that he could provide. When Jaggers presents the thought that there may be a way for Pip to get his hands on Magwitch’s property, the idea sounds hollow and utterly empty to Pip. Pip learns about Estella’s parentage through Magwitch, and that his aspirations were falsely based. When Pip is arrested for his debts and becomes too ill to go to prison, Joe tends to him. Thus, the positive values which Joe had shown Pip as a child are reinforced. After the ruination of Pip’s expectations, the only good he experiences comes directly from the only good he did for others while his expectations where intact. From the beginning to the end of the novel, Pip loses and then rediscovers the importance of human relationships and virtue over wealth and position.
Miss Havisham was once a beautiful and desirable woman; however, by the time she is first encountered in the novel, she is far from being such. She was the victim of a clever scheme to cheat her out of wealth in which Compeyson, Magwitch’s mortal enemy, was involved. After being cheated, she is hurt deeply by being betrayed by a loved one, and pushed into insanity. She devotes her life to wreaking vengeance upon men for the way she was wronged. Estella becomes the vehicle of Miss Havisham’s revenge, and Miss Havisham attempts to mold her into a being of pure malevolence. Only in the end of the novel, after the death of Miss Havisham, does Estella’s heart change from the block of ice it had become. Pip becomes the victim of Miss Havisham’s machination. She fosters his notion that she is his benefactor, and attempts to expand the relationship between Pip and Estella so that Pip will be more deeply hurt when Estella rejects him. Never at one moment does she stop to consider Pip or his feelings. Her warping of Estella was quite inconsiderate as well, and brought a great deal of suffering to the both of them. Miss Havisham is not an evil woman, however. She treats Pip with some kindness when she first meets him, and recognizes Joe as a good man of principle. Miss Havisham also repents her actions compeltely towards the end of the novel. Her repentance comes too late, however, as she has no more life to start anew. The warped nature of her surroundings and herself is a horrifying testament to her powerful passions and forceful will.
Magwitch first appears in Great Expectations as a vicious and threatening convict, which does not beget much sympathy for him. As time goes by, Magwitch becomes more likable. One of the first signs of Magwitch’s decent nature is his confession regarding the food he stole from the blacksmith’s house. His good nature is again manifested when the stranger with the file gives Pip two one- pound notes. Magwitch is very similar to Joe in his coarse, common nature. He has become rich through his labors, however, and seeks to use his money to make Pip into a gentleman. Magwitch is also very similar to Miss Havisham in his molding of Pip; his motives are dissimilar, however. Magwitch is motivated by gratitude, which Pip lacks. He desires only to be proud of Pip and his accomplishments. Magwitch resents Compeyson, as well as the authorities, but with good cause. For a good time, Magwitch seems to be a larger than life character, much like Miss Havisham. His hard life shaped him into a hard man, but that facade fades towards the end of the novel. Magwitch, although a broken man, reveals the love and gentleness of his nature while on his deathbed.
Mrs. Joe (Georgiana) Gargery:
Mrs. Joe (Georgiana) Gargery is the wife of Joe Gargery and the sister of Pip (although nearly 20 years his senior). She is an appearance centered woman who is hell-bent on making Pip pay for living and forcing her to take care of him. She is constantly complaining about how ungrateful Pip is for her raising of him by hand , and she beats him frequently with a stick called Tickler . Mrs. Gargery always wears a heavy apron with pins and needles stuck into it, which have a tendency to end up in Joe and Pip’s digestive tracts. This apron is almost like a symbolic armor against any kind of tenderness or compassion. She is the one who has Pip shipped off to Mrs. Havisham’s house and sets him down the road to self-destruction. Mrs. Gargery is partially paralyzed after she is attacked by Orlick for what he deemed an attempt on her part to get him fired. Ironically, it appears that only after this attack does she truly see the world in its proper perspectives. She calls Orlick in and seems to forgive him (or maybe she was trying to tell Joe who attacked her) and before she dies, she says three words implying that she wishes Joe to forgive Pip. It is quite possible that she has seen what wealth has done to Pip and realizes her mistake.
Mrs. Joe is the initiating factor in Pip’s moral decline and it is very probable that Charles Dickens was attempting to speak about the problems he saw with the beating of children, and the aspirations that some parents place on their children ( r foster children) to become more than they are.
Wemmick is the clerk and closest assistant to Mr. Jaggers. He has two lives: one at the office and one at home. At the office, he is stern, cold and described as having a wooden face with chiseled features. Wemmick is a yes man for Mr. Jaggers at the office, imitating him in almost every way, including the dispersions that he constantly casts at his customers. Wemmick becomes acquaintances with Pip through their dealings with Mr. Jaggers. When Wemmick invites Pip over to his home, he sees another side of Wemmick that is never seen at the office. Wemmick visibly softens as they near his house and becomes quite amiable. In addition, Wemmick has a home made to seem like a castle, complete with a moat, drawbridge, and cannon that Wemmick fires every night before he goes to sleep. This very idealized home scene is in direct contrast with Wemmick’s office life and accentuates Dickens’s implications about reality vs. appearances. While Wemmick is a good man, he is very false and is forced to put on a mask of indifference in order to survive all of the horrible, seedy acts and people that he must deal with on a daily basis. Without this defense, he would probably go crazy. Wemmick proves to be Pip’s most loyal friend (along with Herbert) and aids him in many legal and criminal matters. Wemmick helps Pip to avoid being discovered as Provis’s abetter and allows him to secretly support the advancement of Herbert’s future, the one charitable act that he performs with his money. Wemmick has an aged father who is hard of hearing and a romantic interest that he finally marries in Ms. Skiffins. Wemmick, when at his home, is a good example of what a true gentleman is, however, his character is somewhat adulterated by his change of character when at the office.
Compeyson is the business partner of Arthur, Mrs. Havisham’s brother. Together they plotted to steal away her fortune through a false love affair. After Compeyson had made a fortune in this manner, he got involved in counterfeiting, and recruited Abel Magwitch as his dupe. When they were caught, it was brought out that Compeyson had funneled all of the funds through Magwitch and pinned him as the fall guy. As a result of this, and the fact that Compeyson had no previous record and appeared to be a better gentleman, Magwitch was given a long exile, while Compeyson got off rather lightly. When Magwitch escaped from the hulks and onto the marshes, Compeyson followed him to affect his own escape. When Pip told Magwitch that a man with a bruised face was also on the marshes, Abel Magwitch went after Compeyson. Later, the British Troops found Magwitch in a ditch beating up Compeyson and proclaiming that he had prevented Compeyson from escaping. After many years, Compeyson heard rumor of Magwitch returning and began to shadow him and Pip. After he discovered all that he needed to know, he attempted to arrest Magwitch on accusations of returning to England against an order of Exile. However, Magwitch attacked Compeyson again and ended up drowning the man.
Compeyson was the perfect image of what Dickens saw as wrong about the existing stereotype of a gentleman. Compeyson was well groomed and economically successful. However, he was corrupt to the core and was the very antithesis of what a true gentleman was. This contrast between appearances and reality is a prominent theme throughout the story.
Bentley is Pip’s rival for Estella’s affections. He is introduced early as Pip’s roommate at the Pocket residence, but it is only mentioned that Pip is not very fond of Bentley. He is smug and very ill at ease in nature. Bentley is proud and of high social position. His character fits in perfectly with the nonsensical gentleman’s club, Finches of the Grove. Because of his disagreeable qualities, Pip can not understand why both Jaggers and Estella favor Bentley. Jaggers affectionately refers to him as “Spider.” When Bentley toasts Estella, Pip is furious and becomes even angrier when Estella acknowledges Bentley as a possible husband. Eventually, Bentley does marry Estella. He abuses Estella terribly and his brutal treatment of her plays a major role in humanizing Estella. He is eventually killed by a horse which he was abusing at the time.
Orlick is Pip’s lifelong enemy. He is a big, strong bully with a bad temper who despises Pip. Orlick has lived a difficult life and seems to blame Pip for everything that has gone wrong in his life. He says to Pip, “You was always in old Orlick’s way since ever you was a child.” (Chapter 53) He claims that Pip was favored by Mrs. Joe and that he was bullied by her. Therefore, Orlick reasons, it was really Pip’s fault that he assaulted Mrs. Joe. Orlick also resents Pip having gotten him fired from his job at the Satis House. Orlick further accuses Pip of coming between him and Biddy. Orlick uses all of these accusations against Pip to justify his murder of Pip. In fact, Orlick’s scene with Pip tied up is the only sequence in the book in which Orlick has a major impact. It is during this strenuous time that the reader can clearly see Pip’s sudden unselfishness. While Orlick stalks Pip before his seemingly eminent death, Pip can only think of his loved ones. In Great Expectations Orlick plays the role of the disgruntled bully. He lives a criminal life and ends up working for another villain, Compeyson. His hot temper results in the death of Mrs. Joe, and almost the death of Pip.
Of all the distasteful characters in Great Expectations Pumblechook is definitely the most deplorable. Pumblechook remains static throughout the novel as a pompous and obsequious sycophant. During Pip’s childhood, Pumblechook derides Pip as an ungrateful child who will never amount to anything. He puts the utmost value on material possessions and thus has no true friends. He attempts to shadow his ignorance with his “sophisticated” conversations in which he has completely no idea of what he is talking about. In Pumblechook, Dickens created a monster that he believed represented the abhorrent middle class of England. The only thing that changes in Pumblechook is his treatment of Pip. This treatment only further stresses Pumblecook’s perogative of placing wealth and the upper class on a pedestal. As a result of Pip’s sudden inheritance, Pumblechook abruptly changes his attitude towards Pip and instead of insulting and condemning Pip, he endlessly praises Pip for his new lifestyle. He actually relates to Pip as his equal. Pumblechook, in stride with his character, continually credits himself for Pip’s status and even publicly wraps himself in self-pity on the account of Pip not recognizing him as such. When Pip loses all of his possessions, he suddenly, though certainly not surpi singly, falls out of Pumblechook’s favor. Pumblechook moans at Pip’s aloof attitude towards him. The reader can only cringe at Pumblechook’s unbelievably pompous demeanor because it is quite obvious that he had no hand in Pip’s good fortune. He merely exposed Pip to the snobbish and cold world of Miss Havisham and Estella.
Molly was raised in a situation much akin to that of Abel Magwitch. Both of them were lower-class people who had few to no advantages. They were married and had a child. Soon afterward, when the child was about three years old, another woman began to take a shine to Abel, and Molly killed the woman in a fit of jealousy. Mr. Jaggers took the case of defending Molly before he was well known, and got her acquitted. He was able to do this by dressing Molly up to appear smaller than she actually was and explaining tampering with physical evidence. The influence of this success, which apparently made him famous and started his career, can be seen in his dealings with Mike in chapter 20. In her attempt to get revenge upon Abel for having let another woman get close to him, she gave her child to Mr. Jaggers and let Abel think that she had killed the child. Mr. Jaggers gave the little girl to Mrs. Havisham in order to give the child a chance to escape the fate of her parents. Molly stayed with Mr. Jaggers and served as his maid and servant from the time that she was acquitted until the end of the book. Molly seems to be a very quiet and reserved woman since the case and whenever she begins to show her wild side again, Mr. Jagger reminds her of the debt that she owes him. She seems to be the evil side of Abel. While Magwitch is dirty, poor and a criminal but good at heart and a borderline gentleman; Molly is a cold, hard woman with little regard for life and apparently a viscous, vengeful temper.