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Benjamin Franklin in his Autobiography

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Cathy Huang English 45B/ Section 203 Infante English Essay Three Great Expectations Similar to Benjamin Franklin in his Autobiography and Frederick Douglass in his Narrative, Pip in Great Expectations also demonstrates the archetypal boyhood to manhood narrative. Each story recounts a journey of growth and development, of maturation and self-discovery through experience. In addition, the protagonist of each novel has a purpose which directs his actions and decisions throughout the course of his journey. However, one significant difference exists between the two historical characters and the fictitious Pip-while Franklin and Douglass both strive for realistic and self-improving goals, Pip, like his imaginary character, entertains an idealistic dream. Pip desires to leave his former social class as a common boy and advance in life as a gentleman. This idealism quickly consumes Pip and becomes both the thematic center of the novel and the psychological mechanism that encourages much of Pip's development. Ironically, many instances in the novel show that the symbols and figures of the wealthy class that Pip idolizes are in fact his greatest tormenters. From their unfavorable effects on Pip such as abuse, pain, and unhappiness, manifests the idea that social standing does not determine one's happiness and well being, and most importantly, one's self worth. Even before Pip becomes a member of the wealthy class, his mere exposure to it initiates a procession of pain brought about by physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Miss Havisham, despite her eccentricity, represents the class, wealth, and advancement that direct Pip's actions and emotions for a large portion of the novel. ...read more.


This is particularly evident during times when the difference between their social classes manifest itself in the smallest things, "I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before...her contempt was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it" (60). Moreover, Estella consistently refers to Pip as "Mr. Pumblechook's boy" (58), "silly boy" (266), or simply "boy", using any word but his real name. This is a form of verbal abuse because it ultimately degrades Pip to a gender with no unique identity. Estella practices a deliberate cruelty on Pip that wins his deepest love and causes him to develop a passionate but unrequited devotion for her. This is one of the harshest examples of the pain and torment Pip must endure as he interacts with the upper class. Through these accounts, it becomes evident that social standing and wealth does not always determine well being. In fact, it may accomplish just the opposite-physical pain, emotional disturbance, and misery from the knowledge of one's common bearings. Even when Pip becomes a gentleman and is received by society, there is a sharp decline in his confidence and happiness that accompanies this rise in social status. Pip's unofficial entrance into the world of a wealthy gentleman can be marked as the event where he put on a real gentleman suit. Interestingly, Pip describes, "after this memorable event... I felt rather like Mother Hubbard's dog" (152). While a notable occasion such as this would have naturally allowed for happiness and celebration, Pip instead compares his elevated social standing to a common animal of a children's poem. ...read more.


Pip's newfound love for Magwitch and the role he plays in Magwitch's redeeming death represents a redemption for Pip as well-a deliverance from the cruel and binding world of the upper class. After the boat incident it becomes clear that Pip has completely accepted Magwitch, "for now my repugnance to him had all melted away...I only saw a man who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously toward me" (446). Near the end of his journey, Pip has finally discovered Magwitch's inner nobility. His ability to disregard Magwitch's external status as a criminal is Pip's redeeming force from the miserable idealism that had previously consumed his life. His admiration for Magwitch helps Pip finally understand that one's social position is not the most important quality and is irrelevant in defining one's real worth; instead, improving one's inner character is the ideal worth striving for. Great Expectations is a complicated but ingeniously fabricated tale of an individual's struggle through his changing positions in society's class system. Through Pip's long and arduous journey, misery and torment pervade each step he takes concerning social advancement. While Pip's continuous suffering demonstrates that a high social position does not determine one's well being, it remains uncertain whether or not he would have been substantially better off had he remained a commoner. Pip's journey is an example of the painful growth involved in any coming of age narrative; but more importantly, it exemplifies how these events shape and form an individual's character. In the end, Pip is able to discard his immature fantasies about wealth and class, see the inner worth of characters, and ultimately fulfill his great expectations. 1 ...read more.

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