Sympathy for Pip

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Great Expectations

Dickens' gripping novel of 1861, Great Expectations, portrays his distinguishing tendency to exaggerate both plot and characters. Chapter eight enhances his main aim of initiating sympathy for Pip, and this, consequently, lasts for the novel's entirety. We are shown similarities between Dickens' early childhood memories and the protagonist's inability to defend himself against the injustices he discovers throughout the early years of life. Dickens successfully creates a sympathetic mood through a range of techniques, including an exquisite use of emotive dialogue, sophisticated imagery and symbolism. He explores and brings originality to timeless themes such as fear, loneliness, luck, classism, social justice, humiliation, and humor, which is cleverly incorporated into his writing for the first time to bring an uplifting mood to an otherwise dark and disturbing tone. His use of Miss Havisham and Estella as tools to evoke sympathy and casting the central character as the narrative voice increases compassion and creates a dramatic attitude. In this essay, I will also examine the opening and ending of the chapter, which contribute to its overall effect.

Opening and Ending of the chapter

After the initial detailed account of Pumblechook and his home, we are immediately endeared to Pip and express sympathy when he begins to depict the low ceiling of his attic space. Our sympathy is again increased and contained throughout the entire chapter – from the humorous torment of Pumblechook's sums to meeting the somewhat frightening Miss Havisham and stepping inside her lonely, dilapidated abode. Pip's already dire situation is once again worsened by Estella and Miss Havisham's cruel and menacing comments about the situation in which he finds himself. They arouse our consideration through the way in which they interact, both with each other and with Pip, making him feel ‘much more ignorant' than he had considered himself the previous night. His growing obsession with Estella and her view upon him drags down his self-esteem to an all time low and consequently builds our sympathy towards him. It is here that his feeling of despair and worthlessness present him with the new target of becoming a gentleman, so far from his status at that present time.

Social Class

Great Expectations frequently refers us to the present class system of a post-Industrial Revolution Victorian England. The theme of social underlines the book's overall plot and moral theme that loyalty and conscience are worth more than social advancement, wealth and class. During the 19th century, there were vast differences in social class. Although it was incredibly easy to slip down the social ladder, the poor often resorted to begging or stealing in order to survive. Most children, like Pip, received little or no education, and therefore the working classes were held in low regard to those like Estella, who reacted in a similar way to readers of the book's day. Pip later understands that, despite the esteem to which he holds Estella, one's status in a pretentious and money driven world are in no way connected to one's real character. Estella also realizes this, when instead of marrying kindhearted commoner Pip, she chooses to marry the course and cruel nobleman Drummle, who, despite his high class, is in no way able to fulfill her happiness. Each aspect of Chapter eight reinforces the socio economic significance, which Dickens explores. For example, when Pip and Estella play the simple card game, ‘Beggar my Neighbour', its name and nature seemingly enhance the chief disparity of social class between the two, therefore building sympathy for Pip. His first bitter taste of a ‘higher society' leaves him embarrassed and ashamed when Estella declares him a ‘common labouring boy'. She later insults him further, with harsh comments about his ‘course hands' and ‘thick boots'. It is this chapter in which Pip realizes that his attire and mannerisms will...
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