Great Expectations: Pip's Unrealistic Expectations Essay

2154 words - 9 pages

Pip's Unrealistic Expectations

 

One of the most important and common tools that authors use to illustrate the themes of their works is a character that undergoes several major changes throughout the story. In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens introduces the reader to many intriguing and memorable characters, including the eccentric recluse, Miss Havisham, the shrewd and careful lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, and the benevolent convict, Abel Magwitch. However, Great Expectations is the story of Pip and his initial dreams and resulting disappointments that eventually lead to him becoming a genuinely good person. The significant changes in Pip's character are very important to one of the novel's many themes. Dickens uses Pip's deterioration from an innocent boy into an arrogant gentleman and his redemption as a good-natured person to illustrate the idea that unrealistic hopes and expectations can lead to undesirable traits.

In the beginning of the novel, Pip is characterized as a harmless, caring boy, who draws much sympathy from the reader even though he is at that point content with his common life. The reader most likely develops warm and sympathetic feelings toward Pip after only the first two pages of the novel, which introduce the fact that Pip's parents are "dead and buried" and that the orphan has never seen "any likeness of either of them" (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, New York, Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1998, p. 1). Pip's confrontation with the convict presents his harmless, innocent nature. As Magwitch first seizes the young boy, Pip simply responds, "Oh! Don't cut my throat, sir, Ö Pray don't do it sir" (p. 2). Then, Pip is forced into submitting to the convict's demands, mainly due to his naive fear of Magwitch's fictitious companion who "has a secret way pecooliar to himself of getting at a boy, and at his heart, and at his liver" (p. 4). Even though he aids the convict, the reader's sympathy for Pip soon increases, as his robbery of his own home weighs greatly on his conscience. For example, when Mrs. Joe leaves the Sunday dinner to retrieve the "savoury pork pie," which Magwitch had enjoyed heartily, Pip is tortured by the thought of his actions, while his mind screams, "Must they! Let them not hope to taste it!" (p. 27). He seems to sincerely regret his actions and the fact that he "had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong" (p. 40). Approximately one year after his encounter with the convict, Pip is still shown to be an innocent, caring boy. One night, when Pip and Joe are alone at the forge, Joe explains his various reasons for enduring Mrs. Joe's constant abuse. After their conversation, Pip realizes that he cares deeply for Joe and appreciates everything that the blacksmith does for him. Also, he develops "a new admiration of Joe from that night" and "a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart" (p. 48). Unfortunately, as Pip develops unrealistic hopes and...

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