Show MoreThe True Gentlemen of Great Expectations
In Victorian society, a gentleman was brought up from birth, molded and manipulated to act, dress, talk, and live as true gentility. Upon reaching adulthood, these gentlemen were expected to conduct themselves as society dictated. What happens, however, when a man of lower social stature wishes to become a gentleman, and suddenly finds himself in a position to do so? He now has the financial standing, but lacks the social etiquette that a "true" gentleman possesses. Whom can he turn to for a role model and guidance? This is exactly the situation Pip is faced with in the novel Great Expectations. When he first arrives in London, aspiring to be a gentleman, Matthew Pocket, Wemmick,…show more content…
Again, when Matthew tries to intervene on account of the baby gashing it's eye out with a nutcracker, Mrs. Pocket is outwardly offended, exclaiming, "I am surprised, Matthew, that you should expose me to the affront of interference."(192). Actually, she should have been the one to interfere in the midst of her child's act of self-mutilation. With nothing to do but lift himself up by the hair, patience is an outstanding quality of Matthew. Patience comes in many forms, and by learning from Matthew's example, Pip may be able apply it to his own life. From hard work to patience, Matthew Pocket is a prime example of what it means to be a gentleman.
Although Pip has come into great deal of money, he doesn't know how to manage it. Wemmick provides a good example of how a gentleman conducts his monetary affairs, business, and pleasure. Wemmick has two different personalities, one for the office, and one for home. Upon Pip's request to invest money in Herbert, Wemmick makes a clear distinction that "My Walworth sentiments must be taken at Walworth; my official sentiments can be taken in this office."(293). Separating business from pleasure is one of the first lessons Pip learns from Wemmick. In order to ensure his future livelihood, (in case his "great expectations" should run dry), Pip must have a businesslike attitude at work in order to be successful, and retain his jovial attitude for home. Wemmick also helps Pip become a benefactor as
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Charles Dickens, author of Great Expectations, provides a perfect example of the hope of class mobility. The novel portrays very diverse and varied social classes which spread from a diligent, hardworking peasant (Joe) to a good-natured middle class man (Mr. Wemmick) to a rich, beautiful young girl (Estella). Pip, in particular, elevates in the social pyramid from a common boy to a gentleman with great expectations. With his rise in society, he also alters his attitude, from being a caring child to an apathetic gentleman. During this process, Pip learns how he should act and how to become a real gentleman.
Social mobility and wealth, furthermore, carves a disposition and how a character is looked upon. Pip, the main character is a carefree, pleasant child who is born into a peasant class. He loved his brother-in-law, Joe and his friend Biddy and even helped a convict in the marshes. However, ever since he visited the Satis mansion, Pip transforms his personality and dreams on becoming a prosperous gentleman. His prayers are eventually answered when an influential lawyer, Jaggers, informs him that he is able to be educated to become a gentleman in London and inherit a large fortune.
Joe, Pip’s brother-in-law, is a blacksmith and also from the peasant class. Unlike Miss Havisham who received her wealth from inheritance, Joe works diligently in order to make a living. However, the result of his hard work has no effect and he remains in the lower class. Because of Pip’s aspiration to improve himself socially, he transformed himself to supercilious and proud towards Joe and Biddy. For instance, Pip states, “If I could have kept him [Joe] away by money, I certainly would have paid money” (Dickens 217).
When Joe visited Pip in London, he realized his awkwardness and tells Pip that the social division between them is natural, and it is not Pip’s fault. Moreover, Joe says, “I’m wrong in these clothes. I’m wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th’ meshes” (Dickens 224). Joe’s response exemplifies the differences between two social ranks. In contrast to Joe’s acceptance of his position in the society, Pip felt ashamed of the forge which symbolized his embarrassment of his social place. In addition, Pip’s improvement changes the outlook that is perceived by others of him.
For example, after Pip learns how to be a gentleman, Biddy began to address Pip as “Mr. Pip”. Also, The Blue Boar, a local inn treats him differently by how when he was affluent, he was accommodated with the best room. On the other hand, when he had lost all his riches, the Blue Boar only provided him with an indifferent room among the pigeons. Wemmick is considered to be a strange, middle class man, who serves as a clerk for Jaggers. When the he first meets Wemmick, Pip characterizes Wemmick as an uptight, insensitive man.
However, later, when Pip goes to Wemmick’s house he realizes that he is a funny, family-friendly man. Given that he is in the middle class, he is not affected by money. Additionally, he is less concerned about amount of money he has and just concerns about his father, known as The Aged, and his wife, Miss Skiffins. In contrast to Wemmick, who can live in a jailhouse and his own middle class home, Estella, another character in Dickens’ novel, can only function in an enhanced civilization. She is represented as one of the higher society since she is adopted by a wealthy, aged woman, Miss Havisham.
Ironically, her true father is a convict and her mother is a servant for Jaggers. Because of her affluence, she treats others, of lower status, with contempt and scorn. For example, when Estella first meets Pip, she says “And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots… she denounced me for a stupid, clumsy labouring-boy” (Dickens 59). Nonetheless, Pip continues to love her. Also, because of his desire to marry and be appreciated by Estella, Pip drives himself to become a gentleman. Yet, his eagerness and ambitions to become a member of Estella’s social class caused Pip to become arrogant and haughty.
Moreover, Estella’s unhappy marriage to Drummle causes her to be in the same class as Pip. Therefore, Estella’s life highlights the idea that happiness is not always linked with one’s social status. Ultimately, Dickens creates a novel which plainly emphasizes the differences between social classes. This theme is stressed since Great Expectations is set after the Industrial Revolution, thus, manufacturers were gaining a fortune and the divisions between rich and poor were evident. Furthermore, there is a large gap between the characters’ economic status.
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For example, there is Joe, who is considered to be in the peasant class, there is a middle class man, Wemmick, and finally, Estella, a rich, beautiful woman. While Joe and Estella work best in their own class, Wemmick can perform in a variety of classes. He, also, is not affected by the amount of money he has. Pip, in specific, climbs the social ladder from being a peasant to a gentleman. However, he falls back down and learns his lesson to value the judgment of his own principles, rather than what social class they are placed in. Class mobility, clearly affects Pip and other characters in the way the act and how they perceive others.
Author: Royce Ballin
Social Class in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
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