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‘A snob’s progress’ – is this how we should read Great Expectations?

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Introduction

Great Expectations 'A snob's progress' - is this how we should read Great Expectations? 'Great Expectations' follows part of the life of Pip, whose full name is Phillip Pirrip, starting from when he is about 7 to the age of 23. It is narrated by Pip, when he is about 40, looking back on his younger days. Pip follows an unsettled life, having no parents and being led astray on his way to genteel status, and falling in love with Estella. There are several ways in which Great Expectations can be read or viewed depending on how sharp the reader is and how well the reader understands what Dickens is trying to portray, and the different ways in which it can be read are a key factor to this book. Before we can decipher if the title above is how we should read the book, we firstly have to know what a snob is to determine whether this question is correct. The Collins English dictionary defines a snob as 'a person who strives to associate with those of higher social status and who behaves condescendingly' - a definition which is virtually the same in other dictionaries I have viewed. As the next step to determine whether the question is correct, we have to examine Pip's 'progress' and behaviour, to see if it conforms to the definition of snobbery, taking into consideration the background in which the novel is set, the mid 1800s, and the prevailing customs and beliefs in this period. ...read more.

Middle

By this time Pip is leading the idle and extravagant life of a typical rich gentleman of the period. He and Herbert join a club for young gentlemen, 'The Finches of the Grove' - a name chosen by Dickens because a Finch was a pseudonym for an upper class idiot who came from a privileged background and frittered his family's money on lavish living. Like the other 'Finches', Pip is leading a pointless and extravagant life and his excesses are pushing him into debt. At the same time, he has recurring guilt about his attitude to Joe and Biddy, and it is at this point that he hears in a letter that his sister, who earlier in the book had been badly beaten, has died. He travels back for the funeral, but this time, because of his guilty conscience. he stays in his old house with Joe and Biddy, rather than at the Blue Boar Inn. It is noticeable that Joe and Biddy are also affected by Pip's rise in status because they now refer to him as 'Mr Pip' (P302). While he is staying there Pip speaks to Joe and reveals his change of heart when he entreats Joe to: 'For God's sake, give me your blackened hand!' He is clearly showing a little remorse about his previous snobbishness and showing them that, even though he has become a gentleman, he has not abandoned his roots and still values their friendship. ...read more.

Conclusion

Indeed, Dickens' choice of surname for Pip - Pirrip - is a palindrome reflecting his progress through the class structure and his eventual return to the true values of his roots which he lost sight of on the way. However, as I mentioned at the beginning, books can be read in different ways and, at a deeper level, there are many other aspects to 'Great Expectations' than simply the story of Pip's falling in love with Estella, his lapse into snobbishness and his final achievement of becoming a 'gentleman' in the true sense of the word. While we follow Pip's progress, and his interaction with the other characters, from working class Joe to the idle Finches and the wealthy Miss Havisham, we are given a vivid picture of life in Victorian England with its huge gulf between rich and poor and the rigid class system which fostered tremendous social injustices and inequalities. We learn about the language the people used, the clothes they wore, the food they ate, the way they were educated, the differences between the different classes and the attitudes and prejudices of society. 'Great Expectations' is a story with a moral and through the tale of Pip and his snobbery Dickens shows us his own views on human nature and the evils of the class system. It is a novel, therefore, not just about one particular man and what happens to him, but about London life, false values, 'the dirt of the city', money and morality, right and wrong, good and bad, love and loyalty, and what Dickens considers to be the truly important things in life. ?? ?? ?? ?? Adam Jones, 10Wr ...read more.

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