Human nature is the psychological and social qualities that characterize humankind. Human nature separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. The underlining theme of human nature is evident in Great Expectation by Charles Dickens use of his characters.
A main characteristic that Dickens displays is friendship. The friendship between Pip and Herbert is strong. Herbert was significant to Pip’s growth in social class and eventual to his revelation. “Friendship was one of the human characteristics Dickens enjoyed…by associating fellowship with good characters and deeds, he made it known that he admires friendship.” (MacAndrew 168) Herbert aided Pip when he first came to London and made the transition an easy one. Herbert helped filled in the blanks for Pip when he was lost. Herbert saved Pip’s life when Orlick tried to kill him. When Pip needed someone to turn to Herbert was always there. In return of Herbert’s friendship Pip also helped him. Pip used the money he was getting from Magwitch to finance Herbert dream of becoming a business owner.
This was a true friendship that did not falter throughout the novel. Friendship is one of the few good characteristics that Dickens indicates throughout the novel. Dickens goes beyond the bond of friendship to the bond of love. Herbert was not the only person that assisted Pip. Joe was another component to Pip’s success. Joe had deeper feelings then friendship towards Pip. Joe loved Pip like they were brothers. Joe was a simple, honest, hardworking man. Joe was a model of the man everyone should try to be. Joe was there in the beginning for Pip when he was getting picked on by Tickler or being “brought up by hand” by Mrs. Joe.
Although Pip turned his back against Joe he was there in the shadows. Joe as simple as he was knew that Pip was leaving him behind. “Not wishing to intrude I have departed fur you are well again dear Pip and will do better without.” (Dickens 439) Joe knew that he would only be holding Pip back he felt like he was a burden to Pip. Joe was following the notion if you love something you should set it free. Even though Joe didn’t have much he paid Pip’s debts because of his unconditional love for Pip. Joe tried his best to protect Pip and not to bother him. This unconditional love that Joe employed over Pip became essential for Pips growth.
Another good human characteristic that Dickens expresses is generosity. This came from the most unlikely person, Magwitch. Magwitch help Pip like a father type would. Magwitch is one of the characters that play a role of a parent. “Look’ee here, Pip. I’m your second father. You’re my son—more to me nor any son. I’ve put away money, only for you to spend.” (Dickens 329) Magwitch had the same love for Pip as Joe did. Magwitch did not care about his money, but instead he cared about Pip’s happiness and his dream. Magwitch was a convicted criminal that made Pip dreams come true. Although he was a convict he was morally good. He did everything he could to help Pip become the man he is at the end of the novel.
“Lord strike me dead!’ I says each time—and I goes out in the open air to say it under the open heavens—‘but wot, if I gets liberty and money, I’ll make that boy a gentleman!’ And I done it.” (Dickens 351) Magwitch was the secret benefactor that was founding Pip’s journey. The generosity that Pip showed Magwitch left such impact he swore that he would repay Pips generosity. One act of random kindness change Pip’s life forever. Magwitch generosity towards Pip went far beyond the generosity that Pip showed him. Magwitch generosity did not go unnoticed by Pip though. Near the end of the novel Pip return the generosity by helping Magwitch. Dickens did not only show the positives of human nature, but also the negatives.
One of the negative characteristics that Dickens looked at was cruelty. “Dickens believed the darkest facet of human nature was cruelty. He created many characters who displayed this moribund characteristic…by creating dark characters, Dickens made the reader disgusted with them.” (The Saturday Review 69) Dickens used a span of characters from the protagonist to minor characters to demonstrate cruelty. This was vital to Pip’s and Estella revelation because it show them there immature ways. Pip experience cruelty first hand from the very beginning. Pip’s childhood memories are frightening for him because of the torment he received from Tickler and Mrs. Joe. Joe could only protect Pip so much, but he could not save him from everything. Pip was not so kind towards Joe as Joe was to Pip. Estella was another cruel character because she did not have a heart towards men. She would use her beauty to make men fall in love with her, but would not return the love.
She did not have any affection because it was driven from her at a very early age. Dickens displayed this tactic of cruelty not only in Estella, but also in Compeyson. Compeyson the man that was supposed to married Miss Havisham was a self-centered man. He tricked Miss Havisham to fall in love with him, but when he had access to her money he left on their wedding day. Compeyson also tricked Magwitch. Compeyson and Magwitch were arrested together, but Compeyson organize a plan that got him seven years in jail while Magwitch got fourteen years. The pain that Compeyson left to Miss Havisham and his manipulation of the sentence hearing gave birth to monsters seeking revenge. Dickens use of cruelty brings to life another bad human characteristic, revenge. The cruelty that Compeyson inflected lead Miss Havisham to seek revenge.
Tainted from her one experience Miss Havisham distrusted all men. Miss Havisham played the other role of being a parent. She adopted Estella solo based on concept that all men were like Compeyson. Miss Havisham is the one who created Estella to be this heartless creature. Estella was one of Miss Havisham pawns in her plan of revenge. “Estella doesn’t play into her games anymore and makes her own living with Drummle…Miss Havisham tries to control Pip and seduced him into the thoughts of being with Estella forever.” (Chesterton 199) Pip was the other pawn that Miss Havisham was playing. “But when I fell into the mistake I have so long remained in, at least you lead me on?” said Pip “Yes, I let you on.”
Miss Havisham replied. (Dickens 334) Miss Havisham convinced Pip to think that Estelle was his soul mate knowing Estella would never return the love. Miss Havisham spent the rest of her life on obtaining revenge on men. Like Miss Havisham, Magwitch sought revenge. Compeyson was also the reason behind Magwitch plan to seek revenge. Unlike Miss Havisham, Magwitch wanted direct revenge on Compeyson. Compeyson also used Magwitch for his own personal gain. This obsession leads to Magwitch unhappiness. When Magwitch achieves his goal of revenge he does not gain happiness, but rather despair. Dickens demonstrations of revenge go against any notion that revenge is good, but rather we should forgive those who trespass against us.
Ungratefulness was a part of the collection of negative human characteristics that Dickens expressed. When Pip grows in social class he is ungrateful towards those below him. Pip tries to forget past and where he came from. Pip’s remarks in page 89 “Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith: how think his boots, and how coarse his hands.” He treats Joe and Biddy like they are beneath him, but they are morally better people. “ He rejects the love that like those Joe and Biddy offer, and he feels he will not see himself as worthy, unless he meets the approval of the cold and haughty Estella” (Whipple 381)
All Pip cares for is himself and his goals. Instead of staying with Joe while he was in town he rented a room at the blue boar. Pip wanted no part of his old life and did not want it interrupt his new life. “Could have kept him away by paying money, certainly would have.” (Dickens 217) Even when Joe extended his hand to help Pip he was so superficial at the time he ignore him. Pip forgot all the things that Joe did for him. Pip became ungrateful during his transformation. Pip conflict was self-inflected with his dream of becoming a gentleman.
Charles Dickens demonstrates the aspects of human nature throughout his novel Great Expectations through the use of his characters. Dickens also illustrates the positives and negatives of human nature. “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” (Dickens 453) Pip and Estella turmoil was self-inflected. They faced many hard ships, but only when they grasp the idea on what truly matters in life will they find their bliss.
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