Dickens’ Great Expectations portrays the lives of different people throughout various levels of society and how they all react to their own condition. The past is always haunting the characters’ lives and, in most cases, it even determines the course of their future existence. It is inevitable to see in the story how some characters, playing the role of parents, define the lives of others, especially children, causing indelible consequences. Thus parents must not mold children after their own purposes and expect them to be someone different from whom they truly desire to be. This is one of the major mistakes we see in the novel made by characters such as Miss Havisham and Magwitch, who pretend to outline the lives of others.
Pip’s life has always been influenced and affected by various people. Some want the best for him and others the worst. His parents died since he was very young and this forced him to live with his aunt and uncle. The fact that he lived most of his life without his biological parents is important because it allowed other people to raise him up. Eventually, his life was completely transformed when someone decided to expect great things from him. First of all, we meet Mrs. Joe, an oppressive, unaffectionate, self-righteous woman who is always congratulating herself for having taken care of Pip and for being the only responsible one who “brought him up by hand” (Dickens 27). We could assume that this term refers to the difficulties she encounters as she fulfills the role of being a mother to Pip. It was not an easy job, especially because Mrs. Joe didn’t have any other children and so didn’t know what motherhood really was. It is very probable that Mrs. Joe was also beaten up as a child and brought up by hand. As a result she is doing the same thing with Pip instead of learning from the past and improving the next generation. Thus since the beginning of the novel Dickens shows us how some adults are molding children after their own purposes and bringing then up as they were once brought up.
As Pip grew up the opportunity of going to Satis House opens a new chapter in his life. Mr. Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe decided for him due to the fact that they never asked him if he wanted to go. Once more we may see hoy the life of this child was determined and shaped by those around him. When he goes to Satis House, both the narrator and the reader, meet one of the most important characters of the story, Miss Havisham. She is a mad, vengeful, and wealthy dowager. We would expect from her a lavish lifestyle, but the truth is she lives in an ancient rotting mansion and wears an old wedding dress all the time. The reason for this is that her life is completely altered when she was rejected and abandoned by Compeyson on what should’ve been their wedding day. From that time on, Miss Havisham determines herself to remain in that depressive and melancholic state, and never go beyond her heartbreak.
It is this unfortunate event in Miss Havisham’s life that ignites her evil desire of obtaining revenge from men. Thus when she adopts Estella the opportunity to fulfill her execrable purposes opens up. As a result, with obsessive cruelty, she takes care of Estella and raises her as a weapon to achieve her own personal revenge on men. She doesn’t care if Estella’s life is ruined or if she ends up breaking noble hearts, such as Pip’s. All she wants is to get even with men because of that one man who broke her heart. Yet is it moral for a parent to destroy his child’s life in this way? Is it correct for parents to decide what type of life their children should experience for the rest of their existence? Should parents desire to live out their own purposes in their children’s lives? We may see that Miss Havisham answered positively to all of these questions and ended up destroying her future and Estella’s.
Likewise, Pip’s future is not determined by himself, but by someone else. When Mr. Jaggers arrives with the news that Pip has a benefactor who wants to make him a gentleman, all expectations change and Pip departs to build up his new life. However, he made several mistakes and misspent most of his money. As a result he entered into debt and began to live an unsustainable lifestyle. We can see that this is the effect of never being taught how to administer money and spent it correctly. Later on when Pip meets the convict, Magwitch, after a long period of time since the marshes, he realizes who his benefactor truly was. All those years Pip had thought that Miss Havisham was his benefactor in order for him to marry Estella. However, Pip discovers the truth through Magwitch and feels embarrassed of it.
We can thus comprehend that Pip’s future is not a consequence of his own actions, but it is the result of someone else’s desire to make him a gentleman. What is fascinating is that the night Pip meets the convict again, he realizes who truly had great expectations for him. Magwitch declares, “Yes, Pip, dear boy, I’ve made a gentleman on you! It’s me wot has done it...I own a gentleman…I’m your second father. You’re my son – more to me nor any son” (Dickens 293).