I believe that this is a very effective and significant passage of writing in the story line, because it results in Pip changing his perception on values and contentment. Although it is not a dramatic moment, Dickens uses language to portray the humiliation and disgrace Pip feels, for example the word “disdain” is a very strong word, and tells how Estella looks down on Pip because he is not materially valuable in society. It can also be understood from this passage that Pip sees Estella as superior, almost like an animal superior to everyone else, as he describes her to be “lying in wait”; creating prowling imagery in the readers’ minds eye.
Furthermore, this passage shows that Pip is vulnerable and easily influenced as to what is right and wrong, such as the kind of person he should be and values he should adopt, because he says “her contempt was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it”. The use of the word “infectious” to describe the way Estella’s contempt spreads makes it sound as though it is some kind of disease, which can be caught as a result of pressure from those seen as superior.
This relates to the readers today because I feel that Estella puts pressure on Pip to conform to the way that she expects.
The young readers of Great Expectations would be able to empathise with Pip, because peer pressure is a prominent part of growing up in the twenty first century. Whilst in London, Pip admires Wemmick because he has the ability to have two separate lives; one in London, and one at the Castle.
Wemmick is content with his life because he has the ability to disregard what others think if him and his extravagant, fairytale home. Contentment, therefore, also comes through learning to disregard what other people deem you to be.
Becoming skilled at this can often take a long time, particularly if you are concerned with status, and so this is a difficult lesson for Pip to grasp. However, by the end of the novel, although it is not made obvious that he has mastered this skill, Wemmick’s positive influence in London helps him to discount the importance of status in his life, and focus more on want he wants for himself, rather then what he feels he should put on show for other people. With the aim of achieving contentment, this is a factor that Pip must learn to pay no heed to, and so must the readers of the novel.
A strong message that also comes from the novel is that lusting after material value rather than moral values distorts your life, through greed and false contentment. Pip lusts after Estella because she is physically beautiful, and, before he can be truly content, Pip must learn that moral values are more important than material value. Estella makes Pip feel ashamed of himself and his life at the forge, bringing Pip under the delusion that material values bring happiness. However, in order to achieve some measure of contentment, Pip must dispel this delusion.
At the end of the novel, Pip learns that to be happy, he must be a good person with good values; such examples are when he helps Magwitch, and saves Miss Havisham from the fire. It is the realisation of good values, such as those taught by Joe at the forge, that contribute to Pip being able to achieve some measure of contentment. Having decided to return home to the forge, Pip begins to ameliorate: “The June weather was delicious. The sky was blue, the larks were soaring high over the green corn, I thought all that countryside was more beautiful and peaceful by far than I had ever known it to be yet.
Many pleasant pictures of the life that I would lead there, of the change that would come over my character with such a guiding spirit at my side, whose simple faith and clear home-wisdom I had proved, beguiled my way. They awakened a tender emotion in me; for my heart was softened by my return, and such a change had come to pass, that I felt like one who was toiling home barefoot from distant travel, and whose wanderings had lasted many years. ” (Page 468) This rich passage of the novel reveals many deep and complex emotions from inside of Pip.
The fact that Pip is appreciating the countryside, his former and true home, shows that Pip is ready to accept a humble lifestyle there. Dickens also shows that Pip realises that it is his home-life at the forge, that he chose to leave, that should have been the guide for his life, because he suggests that when he left that life and took on the life of a gentleman, he “proved” the values of the forge to be good. This is emphasized when Pip says that going home “awakened a tender emotion”, suggesting that the same “tender emotion” had been ‘asleep’, or disregarded, until now, when he returns home to the forge.
In addition, when Pip says that he feels as though he is returning home “barefoot”, Dickens uses symbolism because this imagery implies that Pip’s life as a gentleman in London had stripped him of everything that is of worth, such as good values. Being “barefoot” is a good way to depict this because the most lowly and humble people are seen to be those that don’t wear any shoes, especially in the time the novel is set. As the good values of the forge are realised in his life, Pip becomes more content.
A further central issue that I feel Pip must learn is his own status and identity in society. As a rites-of-passage novel, this proves essential to the plot, because discovering where you fit in to society is a main part of growing up and finding your place in the world. Unsurprisingly, Pip struggles to find his place in society as he is an orphan, being bought up by a hateful, unloving sister. It seems that this adversely affects Pip, and increases his receptiveness to the pressure of obtaining high status in society.
This is additionally used by Dickens to reveal the importance of family and parents; knowing your origins when growing up can help a person achieve contentment, an insight likely to be derived from his own broken family background. Pip says: “As I never saw my father or mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they looked like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.
The shape of the letters on my fathers gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn if the inscription “Also Georgina Wife of the Above”, I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. ” (Page 1) As Pip says, “never saw any likeness of either of them”, it gives the impression that Pip doesn’t know anything of his origins, and this results in him being confused about his identity.
Throughout Pip’s childhood at the forge, he leans on the identity of becoming a blacksmith like Joe, because this is all that he has had offered to him being or becoming. His sister, Mrs Joe, depletes Pip’s sense of self with her constant nagging and his being “brought up by hand”, which adds to Pip’s feelings of self worthlessness. Estella has a similar effect on Pip, because her scorn at Pip’ background knocks down the pride he has in his home and identity. Before Estella, Pip had been quite content with his life, but her introduction causes Pip to feel self-disgust and shame:
“Home had never been a very pleasant place to me, because of my sisters’s temper. But Joe had sanctified it, and I had believed in it. I had believed in the best parlour as a most elegant saloon; I had believed in the front door, as a mysterious portal of the Temple of State whose solemn opening was attended with a sacrifice of roast fowls; I had believed in the kitchen as a chaste though not magnificent apartment; I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and independence.
Within a single year, this had all changed, and I would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account. ” (Page 103) This passage shows that although Pip recognises that home had never been a happy place for him, it was home. It was somewhere he could go to and know he was home. The melodramatic imagery and symbolism Pip uses to describe his home show how he felt pride in his humble dwelling. Nevertheless, Pip becomes deluded that the identity the forge offers to him is not for him, but that he is destined to become a gentleman.
The last part of the passage shows how it is Estella and Miss Havisham that have caused this desire in Pip to change his identity and become a gentleman. As a gentleman, Pip uses his money and wealth to display an identity of high status, rather than through his true identity: Pip at the forge. He wears the clothes of a gentleman, owns a boat and servant like a gentleman should, and spends his money extravagantly. “In the evening there was rowing on the river. As Drummle and Startop had each a boat, I resolved to set up mine, and to cut them both out.
” (Page 189) This passage shows how Pip is ready to compete with others, so that he is known as the best, or that he has the best identity. Competing with others around him and trying to keep up with what they expect, for example, in this case, trying to keep pace with “Drummle and Startop” shows again how Pip is easily influenced by others to become what they think he should become, rather than what Pip genuinely wants. His opulence in possessions gives others around him in London the impression that he is a gentleman of high status.
Since Pip is unsure of an affluent identity, he attempts to prove it usng his fortune, which demonstrates dissatisfaction of self. In the end, however, he runs into debt, which may be symbolism of how Pip isn’t really destined to be a gentleman; that his wealth can’t pretend to be his identity forever, and it can’t make him content: “At once I put bills up in the windows, for I was in debt, and had scarcely any money, and began to be seriously alarmed at the state of my affairs”(Page452)
This short passage shows that Pip’s identity as a gentleman, and his sense of self as a gentleman, doesn’t work. He is “seriously alarmed”, not only with his financial state of affairs, but with his mental state of affairs. As being a gentleman hasn’t worked out well for him, he is once again confused as to whom he is, and what he should become. In the end, Joe pays off Pip’s debts for him: “Enclosed in the letter, was a receipt for the debt and cost on which I had been arrested.
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