Love & Guilt in Great Expectations

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Because Charles Dickens’ novel “Great Expectations” focuses on the growth and development of the most important character who functions as both Pip the narrator and Pip the protagonist, this novel is called a bildungsroman. In this context, it is of great significance to understand or analyze the character of Pip so that we can draw a conclusion from his actions in the novel. The aim of this essay is basically to discuss the two significant issues of ‘love’ and ‘guilt’ together in this mid-Victorian novel concerning mostly the main characters Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella, Biddy, Herbert and Joe.

Right from the early chapters of the novel, the reader gets to know that even though Mrs. Joe is Pip’s elder sister, Pip feels close to Joe, Mrs. Joe’s husband, rather than his own sister who never shows him any affection; let alone affection, she even threatens him with her “Tickler” whenever she thinks Pip has done something wrong. Consequently, it is not abnormal that Pip grows to love Joe much more than her. In this respect, Joe symbolizes goodness, kindness, and loyalty despite his uneducated self and he still cares for Pip even after Pip leaves and (almost) forgets about Joe. Actually, Pip becomes disdainful of Joe (and Biddy) when he goes to London to become a gentleman upon being informed that he has a secret benefactor. Nevertheless, the reader feels that Pip still loves Joe, but he does not want to see Joe for the simple reason that he is uneducated and he may make Pip ashamed with his uncultivated manners. Thus, although Pip seems to forget about Joe, he still has a strong conscience which enables him to seek for his original uncorrupted feelings towards Joe; Pip the narrator is perfectly able to judge his own bad actions that he did in the past, especially against Joe, and he feels a very strong sense of gulit as a consequence. On the other hand, Joe is aware that his uneducated self is going to trouble Pip if he stays close to him and he addresses him as ‘sir’ after Pip moves to London: He knows he should keep the distance. After Pip falls ill upon Magwitch’s death, Joe comes to take care of Pip, but once Pip gets well, Joe again increases the distance between Pip and himself. This is, of course, because Pip neglected Joe after he has gone to London. Fortunately, Joe (and Biddy) is sympathetic enough to forgive Pip when the latter rushes home after Joe leaves (originally to propose Biddy) and they are truly reconciled at last. Very much to Pip’s surprise, by the way, Pip finds out that Joe has paid for his debts before he left, which teaches Pip a good lesson; Dickens likes the moral lessons and here he tries to show the reader that even a man of lower class such as Joe can be a great model for a snobbish person like Pip. This is also obvious when Pip attempts to tell Joe about his benefactor upon which Joe refuses to know about it: This clearly means Joe does not care about the money and he helps Pip only because he loves him (unlike Pumblechook). So, at least Pip is eventually able to understand his mistake no matter how guilty he feels towards Joe. In London, Pip strikes up a lasting friendship with Herbert Pocket, the son of Matthew Pocket, with whom he had first met in the garden of Miss Havisham’s Satis House and who had challenged Pip to a fight. Herbert contributes a lot to Pip on his way to becoming a gentleman and they really get on well with each other. Herbert’s expectation from the future is to be a merchant and make enough money to marry his good-natured Clara. Pip feels such a close friendship to him that he secretly aids him financially to turn his almost impossible dream into reality in spite of the fact that Pip is running up debts and needs money for himself. So, to some extent, Pip’s ‘Great Expectations’ required him to neglect ignorant Joe and build up a more close friendship with Herbert. All in all, we can...
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