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DOES DICKENS GREAT EXPECTATIONS SHOW THAT SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH MORAL DEVELOPMENT?

Great Expectations ititlalics for titles iacs for titles is widely regarded as Charles Dickens’ finest novel. It was written during the Victorian period in England, a time of immense change. The industrial revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries had transformed the social landscape. There were significant divisions between rich and poor. People moved from sparsely populated rural areas to cities in search of economic opportunity. These are the times in which Dickens lived and they make themselves felt in almost every facet of Great Expectations. He was especially drawn to social justice and to commenting on the inequalities inherent to Victorian society. Dickens takes great risks with some of the most cherished beliefs and ideals of society at the time, particularly the belief in progress and the ability of an individual to shape his own destiny.

New paragraph Great Expectations is a bildungsroman novel. Pip’s apostrophe social and moral formation propel the narrative forward. Throughout the novel Pip is faced with struggling to fit into a society he was not born into, nor initially morally suited for. Pip’s desire for self-improvement is the main source of the novel’s apostrophe title. Pip’s apostrophe low social standing makes itself felt in the opening pages of the novel. Can you say more about how bildungsroman is a useful way of considering the novelHis struggle to learn to read indicates a desire for intellectual and social improvement, his behaviour early in the novel indicates a desire for moral improvement. Themes of social class and ambition move to the forefront with the introduction of Miss Havisham and Estella, and they remain there until the end. It is during his first visit to Satis House that Pip realises his social standing as a ‘common labouring boy.’ His feelings for Estella whom he describes as ’a very pretty and very proud young lady’ page reference? combined with the grandeur of Satis House raise his consciousness. He states at this point, ‘Pause you who read this and think for a moment, of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day’.page needed? From then on his life was never the same. Can you say more about exactly what drives Pip forward after Satis house ? How is his motivation altered and how does Dickens indcate that this will be a ‘wrong turn’ morally?With the backing of an anonymous benefactor, Pip moves to London to acquire his great expectations. This essay will examine if Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ shows that social and economic development is incompatible with moral development. The effect of Pip’s social development on his moral development can be seen quite clearly through his changing relationship with Joe. In chapter seven Pip writes ‘Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration for Joe from that night. We were equals afterwards, as we had been before, but afterwards at quiet time when I sat looking at Joe and thinking about him, I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart.’ Page reference They are never equal again after this. When Joe travels to London to visit Pip in Chapter twenty seven, the situation has changed considerably ‘If I could have kept him away by paying money I certainly would have.’ Ref? What does Joe represent in the novel: how in London is an opposition set up between city and country, tradition and modernity : What larger comment on his society may Dickens be offering here ? The themes of snobbery and ambition rear there head first when Pip visits Satis house. The honest virtues of life as a blacksmith have left Pip now, ‘I was truly wretched, and had strong conviction on me that I should never like Joe’s trade, I had liked it once, but once was not now.’ Ref? Pip becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming a gentleman. Being a gentleman to Pip means having money and fine clothes and living a life of idleness. Gentlemen do not have the bad stigmas of the working class, such as rough hands and clumsy boots. Initially Pip sees Joe as the complete opposite of a gentleman, he is course, uneducated and does not care about money. Dickens uses the character of Joe to symbolise happiness and contentment. Being a blacksmith is hard and requires determination, commitment and skill, but no formal learning. Joe is a man who could ‘crush a man or pat an eggshell, in his combination of strength and gentleness.’ Ref? These are all virtues that are lost on Pip as he develops socially. Good but see my comment above for the possibility of a larger comment on a changing Britain shown in the depiction of Joe Pip’s moral breakdown is evident when Joe visits Satis house. Pip is distraught at the possible embarrassment that Joe could cause him. Pip had previously been so caring toward Joe and now he feels ashamed. ‘I was ashamed of the dear good fellow – I know I was ashamed of him.’ Ref? This is one of the many examples in the novel when Dickens draws attention to the gulf between the world of good moral virtues and the world of money. Joe’s outlook on life involves unconditional love which is in stark contrast to that of Miss Havisham and Estella. Pip is caught in the middle. The relationship between Pip and Joe begins to change here as the simple love Pip once felt is replaced with shame. From this point on Pip develops socially and economically but not morally. When Joe visits Pip in London he has changed considerably, he has been living an extravagant lifestyle and even has a servant. ‘We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us. We were always more or less miserable.’ Ref? This visit is awkward for both Pip and Joe. Pips rise in social status is accompanied by a sharp decline in confidence and happiness. Joe’s apostrophe visit to London shows how awkward Pip’s position between the social classes has become, he worries that Joe will disapprove of his new life and that those in his new life will disapprove of Joe. Pips behaviour throughout this visit is not admirable. He treats Joe with hostility and behaves very coldly toward him. It is interesting to note the difference in Pip the character and Pip the narrator here. Pip the character feels irritated and unhappy at the thought of Joe visiting, but Pip the narrator judges himself harshly for having thought that way ‘God forgive me.’ Can you comment on the effect of having the older and yunger PIP , the one offeringa moral commentary on the other: how does the reader experience this and what possibility does Dickens make use of here in criticizing Pip’s choices and society Pip’ s realisation that his social development has brought with it a lack of moral development reaches a high point at the funeral of Mrs Joe. Her death marks an important point in the development of his character. He makes clear at this point that he is unhappy with his lifestyle. He promises Biddy that he will visit them more and genuinely seems to want to rectify his behaviour toward his ‘lower class’ loved ones. As he leaves however he knows he is unlikely to honour his promise, ‘Once more, the mists were rising as I walked away. If they disclosed to me as I suspect they did, that I should not come back, and that Biddy was quite right, all I can say is - they were quite right too.’ Ref? When Magwitch the convict us revealed as Pips benefactor it completely collapses the stark social divisions that defined Pip in the novel, first as the blacksmith’s apprentice envious of the rich and then as a gentleman embarrassed of his poor relations. When Pip learns that his wealth and social standing has come from the labour of a convict, it turns his social perceptions on their head. The fulfilment of his hope of being raised to a higher social standing turns out to be the work of a man from a class even lower than his own or Joes. He is unable to hide his disgust and disappointment at this revelation, ‘The abhorrence in which I held the man, the dread I had of him, the repugnance with which I shrank from him, could not have been exceeded if he had been some terrible beast.’ Page Reference? Aside from Pip’s shock , is there a larger point here about Magwitch creating gentleman: what does this say about the hypocrisy of Victorian ideas of gentility and the moral status of the sources of wealth of Victorian society With this shocking revelation we see an almost immediate turn around in Pip’s moral development. His road back to grace starts when Magwitch reveals himself. There is a sense of duty which compels him to help Magwitch. This is a mark of his inner goodness, as it was the first time he met him. The irony that his benefactor was someone more socially detestable than Joe is not lost on Pip. His dream has come to an end and he knows what it has cost him. ‘I would not have gone back to Joe now, I would not have gone back to Biddy now, for any consideration; simply I suppose, because my sense of my own worthless conduct to them was greater than every consideration. No wisdom on earth could have given me the comfort that I should have derived from their simplicity and fidelity; but I could never, never, never undo what I had done.’ Close quote and page ref? Although Pip seems to have changed, he still has not learned that the hierarchy of the class system says nothing about the morality of a person. He thinks he is ruined because he is now associated with a convict even though Magwitch has shown him nothing but kindness. His guilt about Joe and Biddy is partly based on the belief that the money the convict has given him is somehow not as pure as it would have been if it had it come from Miss Havisham. Pip for all his faults does not betray the man who has made him what he is. Is it significant that both Pip and Magwitch are orphans and that both act out of compassion and wrong doing (Pip feeding Magwitch and concealing him from the police) Is dckens suggesting they are closer than Pip might admit ? As Pip’s social and economic development begins? to unwind in the third part of the novel, his moral development begins. He both fears Magwitch and fears for Magwitch. Although feared initially, Magwitch impresses on both Pip and Herbert a raw sense of honour. In comparison to Compeyson, Magwitch is an honourable man. He was low - born an orphan, whereas Compeyson is an educated gentleman. ‘He set up for a gentleman, this Compeyson. He was a smooth one to talk, and was a dab at the ways of gentle folk.’ Ref? This had earned Compeyson a lenient sentence at his trial whereas Magwitch had received a heavy one. This spurred Magwitch’s desire to ‘own’ a gentleman and enact his revenge on the class system. The theme of loyalty and human affection appear again when Herbert and Wemmick rally round to help Magwitch escape. The way in which Magwitch dies is testament to his own inner strength and Pip displays a new found love for the convict before he dies. After the death of Magwitch Pip is no longer concerned with social class, he has accepted Magwitch as his ‘second father’ – ‘For now my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted, wounded and shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor and had felt affectionately, gratefully and generously toward me with great consistency through a series of years.’ Pip sees that Magwitch has been better to him than he himself has been to Joe. Pip identifies himself as less of a Gentleman than Joe and Magwitch. Pip has at last learned the novels great moral lesson. Loyalty, love and human affection are more important than social class and material wealth. Good can you say more about the Proxy parent figures to Pip in the novel ? Dickens displays the themes of social and moral development through some of the more minor characters in the book as well. Herbert Pocket represents what Pip could become. Despite his lack of wealth initially, he is a true gentleman. Upon receiving the money Pip requested he have, he starts his own law firm and builds a successful career for himself. Pip chose to abuse the wealth bestowed upon him, and it is only after he learns the valuable lessons from Magwitch and Joe that he realises that Herbert is the gentleman he aspired to become. Pip realises that it is not the source of wealth and status that makes a gentleman, but the manner in which a person’s character is displayed. Dickens shows us through Herbert that it is possible to be socially successful and be a true gentleman. Mr Jagger’s standing as a gentleman is not based on the quality of his character but on the fearful respect he commands in society. Pip admires Mr Jaggers, he was not born into wealth but worked his way up to his position of power. Only after learning the truth behind Jaggers’ journey to wealth that Pip realises he does not represent a true gentleman either. Mr Jagger’s is another example of how wealth and power are in fact far removed from being a true gentleman. Jaggers represents the law and links all of the characters and society together , yet he is amoral figure : is there a comment here on Victorian society? Wemmick is a gentleman but is not a man of wealth. He keeps his professional life far removed from his private life. Estella and Miss Havisham are used to attack the notion that that money and status are a guide to morality. They are eaten away by bitterness in a house that does not permit love. Bentley Drummle is the most obvious example of an upper class lout in the novel. He represents class distinction, he is a gentleman by wealth but not by nature. Pip originally believed that moral and social values were dependant on each other and that both were equally important. It is the character of Bentley Drummle that makes Pip realise there is no fundamental connection between social advancement and morality. Drummle inherited his wealth and knows nothing of hard work. Drummle helps to wipe away Pip’s fantasies, in comparison he sees the inner worth in people like Joe and Magwitch. With the exception of Herbert Pocket and to an extent Wemmick, Dickens shows us, through his characters, that morality and social advancement are incompatible. Good is it significant that inherited wealth is a sign of corruption (Drummle and Miss Havisham) Might this be a radical message for Victorians Dickens’ underlying message is that wealth and class are superficial, they do not give any indication of a person’s quality or true gentility. He does not however condemn wealth and social qualities such as good manners and formal education, it is those who become preoccupied with false ideals that are criticised. We are presented with harmless forms of wealth and privilege in Wemmick and Herbert. Pip however deludes himself into thinking that having the outward trappings of gentility will make him a gentleman. In making wealth and status his primary aims he succeeded in becoming quite the opposite of a gentleman. Dickens preaches that social status and external appearances are doubtful measures of a person’s true quality. Pip’s journey is the medium through which he carries this message. Being most repugnant at the height of his expectations yet being most worthy when he has lost everything. Supposed gentlemen such as Drummle, Compeyson and Pumblechook are looked upon as hideous and unworthy characters. Dickens holds up, for our admiration, truly worthy characters such as Joe and Biddy, who understand the importance of compassion. Through the analysis of Pip’s journey and the characters he encounters along the way we can see that Dickens message is, attempting to gain wealth and status through social and economic development is incompatible with moral development.

BIBLIOGRAPHY good

Bernard Shaw, George, ‘The Unamiable Estella and Pip as Function of Class Snobbery.’ in Blooms Guide to Great Expectations. ed. by Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House publishers, 2005).

Brooks, Peter, ‘The Beginning and Ending: Pip before the plot and beyond plot,’ in Blooms Guide to Great Expectations. ed. by Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House publishers, 2005).

Cotsel, Michael, Critical Essays on Charles Dickens Great Expectations (London: G.K Hall 1990).

Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations (London: Wordsworth Press 1992).

Morris, Christopher D., ‘Narration and Pips Moral Bad Faith.’ in Blooms Guide to Great Expectations. ed. by Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House publishers, 2005).

Schilling, Bernard N., Great Expectations and the World of Dickens in Victorian Studies, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Spring 2003). Pp542 – 552.

Walsh, Susan, Bodies of Capital: Great Expectations and the Climatic Economy, in Victorian Studies, Vol 37, No1 (Autumn 1993) pp. 73-98.

Bibliography: good Bernard Shaw, George, ‘The Unamiable Estella and Pip as Function of Class Snobbery.’ in Blooms Guide to Great Expectations. ed. by Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House publishers, 2005). Brooks, Peter, ‘The Beginning and Ending: Pip before the plot and beyond plot,’ in Blooms Guide to Great Expectations. ed. by Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House publishers, 2005). Cotsel, Michael, Critical Essays on Charles Dickens Great Expectations (London: G.K Hall 1990). Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations (London: Wordsworth Press 1992). Morris, Christopher D., ‘Narration and Pips Moral Bad Faith.’ in Blooms Guide to Great Expectations. ed. by Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House publishers, 2005). Schilling, Bernard N., Great Expectations and the World of Dickens in Victorian Studies, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Spring 2003). Pp542 – 552. Walsh, Susan, Bodies of Capital: Great Expectations and the Climatic Economy, in Victorian Studies, Vol 37, No1 (Autumn 1993) pp. 73-98.

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