The Bildungsroman Genre.
The narrative mode Dickens has adopted aligns his novel with the Bildungsroman genre of literature. The term Bildungsroman is a German word meaning 'novel of formation' or 'education novel'. A Bildungsroman novel frequently puts an emphasis on the moral and psychological development of its protagonist. Morality is an important theme in Great Expectations, one of the episodes of Great Expectations which illustrates the conventions of the Bildungsroman form is the story's opening which immediately establishes the protagonist's orphaned status with the young Pip contemplating the graves of his dead parents. The figure of the 'orphan' illustrates Dickens's innovative engagement with the Bildungsroman genre, as Pip could be viewed as a blank slate, or 'tabula rasa', in that his mind isn't informed by any external psychological influence from his parents. Instead his shrewish older sister and her husband, the kindly and unassuming blacksmith Joe Gargery, are raising him. Initially Pip is content with his humble surroundings, although his class-consciousness receives a rude awakening on his first visit to Satis House. Here he encounters Miss Havisham and her ward Estella, the latter of whom takes delight in continually reminding the protagonist of his lowly status. When Estella remarks on Pip's 'coarse hands' and 'thick boots', and his habit of calling knaves 'Jacks' when they are playing cards together, she is expressing her contempt of his background. Even though Pip is hurt by her taunts, he still becomes infatuated with Estella, and it is this attraction which triggers his own animosity towards his origins. Sometime after Pip has come of age and has been working in the forge with Joe, the lawyer Jaggers informs him of an anonymous benefactor who wishes to make the protagonist a gentleman. Incorrectly Pip assumes this benefactor to be Miss Havisham, and starts to entertain the belief that the old spinster intends him for Estella. This...
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