Throughout his prosperous career as a writer, Charles Dickens took a literacy stance on the values and social status of society in London in the 19th century. Great expectations is of no exception. I agree completely with the statement, as Dickens portrays the characters we favor with sympathy (i.e. Joe, Magwitch and to a lesser extent Pip) to the characters which are adversely portrayed (i.e. Estella, Miss. Havisham, and Mrs. Joe). This use of sympathy and aversion towards these certain characters relate to their treatment on one another and their moral values.
The first relationship that Dickens judges harshly against is that of Estella and Mrs. Havisham. We are initially come in contact with the characters Estella and Miss. Havisham when Pip enters Satis House in chapter 8. The physical environment in which Estella and Miss. Havisham lived in gives vital first impressions of the status and condition of the characters.
The element of treatment in this case is neglection and imprisonment, which can be directly related to Miss Havisham mothering Estella. Miss Havisham s main objective for raising Estella is to mold her into herself so that she can have another chance in life to love again. This sick fetish fantasy leads to Miss Havisham showing no love or companionship towards Estella. Instead she infuses materialistic and social implications into Estella and most importantly teaches and encourages her to lure men and in doing so, break to their hearts.
You can break his heart.
Money, wealth and social position can t buy one of the most important qualities of being human- to be loved. As Miss Havisham was coming of age, fear and real loneliness had set in and she tried to confide and be loved be Estella. Miss Havisham s emotional neglection for Estella leads to Estella s inability to love her back.
You made me, you created me.
Dickens implies through the aversion towards Miss Havisham and Estella that both characters are very emotionally limited through the inability to communicate, respond, confide and relate to each other s mutual feelings.
A major judgement of character by Dickens is Pip. The reader is both very sympathetic and disheartened towards Pip through his interactions and treatment on other characters, and it is only through these actions we find Pips true sense of being a true gentleman. We are very sympathetic towards Pip through his innocence as a young boy. This initialed sympathy for Pip occurs from a combination of important aspects; Pip s orphaned status, and his reoccurring recollection of his mothers grave wife of the above makes the reader feel in favor for Pip. The treatment of Pip s legal guardians, Mrs. Joe and Joe, towards Pip and Pips treatment towards his parents is of vital importance how the reader sympathizes for Pip.
Mrs. Joe s physical and emotional harshness degrades Pip. She emphasizes the point that she had raised him by hand , he was a burden and should be grateful for all that she has done for him. Although Pip is young and innocent, Mrs. Joe portrays him to be small and worthless. Mrs. Joe is judged not on her status of a well-trained housewife, her possessions, reputation, or for her sacrifices she had made to raise Pip up by hand. She is judged on her inability to show her love, her emotions and her affections towards Pip and her violently plagued temper which made her a hard woman both physically and emotionally.
Joe s simplistic nature and ideals created the prefect character for Pip to look up to and confide in at an early age. Love, affection, protection and the persistence of education were the values that Joe showed towards Pip, and this flourished and blossomed into a strong mutual relationship. Mrs. Joe s value towards Pip, however, was to infuse the materialistic implications of life and exposed him to the evils of Satis House. Primarily Estella and Mrs. Havisham changed the nature of Pips complexion of character. Pip s own confused judgment of who he is, where he lives is based on the false pretences of Estella s contempt towards Pip.
Her contempt was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.
Doubts and confusion starts infiltrating Pip s small young mind, and when apprentice to Joe there is extreme dissatisfaction in Pip s life, for fear of Estella s possible sighting of him at the forge while his grimmest and commonest. This is a turning point in Pip s relationship with Joe and the sympathy the reader feels for Pip. This is fundamentally due to Pip finding difficulty and alienation to relate with Joe, his only real friend, and thus a build up of emotion starts to form in Pip.
Through the chain of events from Satis House to moving to London, away from Joe and the forge to peruse his great expectations, Pip can be described as a hardening stone that is going cold in the wintry night. Pip is a half cast in London, trying to fight his way for reputation, materials and wealth. Upon returning to the forge his treatment on the village people is very patronizing and reminds us of the disliked characters Mr. Wosple and Pumblechook.
We lose further sympathy for Pip for his rejection of Joe, (when he feels ashamed to introduce Joe to Herbert), and through his extreme expenditures for image, materials and reputation (Pip s servant The Avenger ). There are on many occasions, however, that we see a revive in good heartedness from Pip, which wins approval and favor from the reader.
Our eyes met, and all the sir melted out of that manly heart as he gave me his hand.
The quote above shows that no matter how many walls, through materialism and shifting social classes, Pip tries to put up around himself, his relationship with Joe is so intense that in special moments when they unit on common ground, these walls are broken. This is only possible through Joe s treatment towards Pip, as Joe never held anything against Pip for leaving the forge, the apprenticeship or moving to London. Joe always persisted to be in support of Pip, and to protect him while keeping his gentle, understanding and simple nature that characteristic to Joe.
We see a distinct change in the development and maturity of Pip when he shows true love for Magwitch, as well as empathy and self-sacrifice. Through this love and commitment for Magwitch, Pip is proven to contain the moral, inner characteristics of a true gentleman based not on materials, but on the genuine Victorian qualities of kindness. Through Magwitch s death, Pip clearly acknowledges the wonderful Christian morals and simple standards possessed by Joe.
The main great expectation in Pips life is to become a gentleman. Dickens poses question to the reader what does it mean to become a gentleman- possession, pride, reputation or to enlighten the idea of a true gentile-man – through the treatment of others.
Therefore we can see how Dickens uses the treatment of characters on one another combined with sympathy and aversion to make the reader judge each character on their own merits and values.