“Great Expectations” has been described as the story of a “snob’s progress”. In the light of this comment, describe Pip’s development in the novel. Refer to the changes in the way he behaves and talks, the reactions of other characters in the novel and the reasons why he normally retains the reader’s sympathy. In “Great Expectations”, Pip’s character goes through many changes. His morals and outlook on life are both greatly affected by his lifestyle, and his view of other characters is changed by his experiences and surroundings.
At the beginning of “Great Expectations”, we see Pip as a very young child, living in fear of his sister, Mrs Joe Gargery. Joe is described in much the same way, which shows how he is childish at heart. We are told that Pip also sees this in chapter 2, when he tells us “I always treated him as a larger species of child”. Pip and Joe both live in fear of Mrs Joe’s regular “Ram-pages”, and her wax coated cane, Tickler.
Although Pip and Joe obviously fear Tickler, Pip never really speaks of his fear in the book. It is seen more as a part of his life than a painful experience. For example, when Pip arrives home late after his encounter with Magwitch and learns of Mrs Joe’s “Ram-page”, he is told by Joe that “Which is worse, she’s got Tickler with her”. Instead of showing fear, we are simply told that “At this dismal intelligence, I twisted the only button on my waistcoat round and round, and looked in great depression at the fire”
Mrs Joe’s treatment of Pip is mimicked by Uncle Pumblechook, who seems to be fully supportive of her complaints against Pip – mainly that he exists and that she has to look after him. At the start of the book, Pumblechook is very nasty to Pip, and is also fully supported by the Hubbles (at Christmas dinner) and Mr Wopsle. The main topic of conversation (apart from pork) is how ungrateful Pip is. This is brought up first by Pumblechook, who says “be grateful, boy, to them which brought you up by hand.”. This is then backed by Mrs Hubble, who adds “”Why is it that the young are never grateful?”. This conversation continues for some time, which cause Pip to remain silent and sink into his chair.
These two examples show that in the first section of the book, Pip is afraid of his surroundings. He keeps quiet and tries to stay away from company (except Joe) to avoid punishment. Joe is Pip’s only friend, and makes up for the absence of other children in his life. Pip is happy talking to Joe, unlike Mrs Joe and her circle of friends. Pip meets two other main characters in the first part of the book, and they are Miss Havisham and Estella. These are two of the most important characters in “Great Expectations”, and Dickens develops their characters a lot.
Upon Pip’s first meeting with Miss Havisham, he is afraid of her, but it is not the same kind of fear as he has for Mrs Joe. He fears Mrs Joe as he fears Tickler, and does not want to be punished. However, he is afraid of Miss Havisham because she is strange and twisted. Pip does not understand her, and does not know what she is capable of, or what she could do to him. He speaks of her as a “ghost”, and sees many disturbing sights inside Satis House, such as the infested wedding feast and the stopped clocks.
Pip tells us of his terror at his first sight of Miss Havisham. She can see his fear, and asks him “You are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born?”. We are then told that “I regret to state that I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie comprehended in the answer “No.”” As the book progresses, Pip comes to realise that there is nothing to be afraid of in Miss Havisham. By the end of the book he is happy to confront, criticise and even insult her.
Pip also misinterprets Estella’s character. He falls in love with her the first time he sees her, even though he is only seven years old. This is obviously what Miss Havisham was trying to achieve, as she is continually quizzing Pip on his thoughts about Estella, and one of the first things she asks him is “What do you think of her?”. Pip, after some hesitation, replies that he thinks she is “proud” and “rude” but also “pretty”. Pip says little to Estella herself, but once he has left Satis House he is totally obsessed by Estella. This leads us onto a sudden change in Pip’s character.