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'Great Expectations is sometimes said to incorporate a powerful nostalgia for the social and moral certainties of Joe Gargery's forge' (David Trotter). To what extent do you regard Dickens's novel as nostalgic?

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Introduction

'Great Expectations is sometimes said to incorporate a powerful nostalgia for the social and moral certainties of Joe Gargery's forge' (David Trotter). To what extent do you regard Dickens's novel as nostalgic? During his childhood Pip never seemed happy; not even with himself; his sister constantly reminded him of how lucky he was to be alive and, people like Pumblechook, rumpled his hair and were forever reminding him that he was "brought up by hand". His surroundings were as miserable as they could be, with cold, wet marshes, and the hulks out to sea full of men like the one he met in the graveyard, whose memory forever haunts him. Pip's life ends up revolving around something he knows he cannot change; the fact that "he is a common labouring-boy!" (60). However; suddenly things change and, as his expectations take shape, he heads off to London and begins the life of a gentleman which he has been striving to live for so long. This new opportunity seems to bring new happiness, until he is told the truth of who his benefactor really is; and it seems to change Pip, and the course of the novel; he begins to realise who he really is, and the guilt at leaving the forge builds. However, does Pip really show any nostalgia for the forge and its moral certainties or is it the just that he realises he knows nowhere else and so is forced to return? ...read more.

Middle

The forge is not really his home, and it is certainly not where he would have chosen to grow up. Jerome Bump suggests that his family actually drove him away because "as "compensation" for his shame he soon identified himself with Estella's extraordinarily dysfunctional "family" and adopted her view of Joe and a stance of "vicious reticence" or lying" (Bump). When Joe comes up to London and visits him, Pip is appalled by the idea because he is ashamed to be associated with him. Pip says that his feelings about Joe's visit were of "considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen sense of incongruity." (218). Awkwardness has built up between the two friends; Pip has literally stepped up a few classes from a blacksmith to a gentleman, and neither of them know how to act towards the other. This awkwardness works in two ways for Pip, firstly he is ashamed for Joe to see his recently decorated flat and his servant; he is aware of Joe's simple ways and is ashamed to show off his riches in front of a blacksmith. Secondly, and I think more importantly, he is ashamed to show Joe, and therefore his background, to any of his new acquaintances. As Joe is leaving, he tells Pip that he accepts the class division between them and that from then on he will only be met by Pip at the forge. Pip is so overcome by this that he goes after Joe but finds he is too late to catch up with him. ...read more.

Conclusion

divest myself of a misgiving that something might happen to London in the meanwhile, and that, when I got there it would be...clean gone." 146). This longing far over shadows the nostalgia for Joe Gargery's forge, Pip does miss Joe but I would not say he missed the life that went with him. There are times at which he regrets ever leaving the simple way of life that went with Joe and his forge but I do not agree with the fact that there is a "powerful" sense of nostalgia "for the social and moral certainties of Joe Gargery's forge". I think any nostalgia felt was sprung out of guilt for denying his past in the hope of becoming a gentleman: "For Pip, his bed just has become "uneasy," and that uneasiness also comes from himself, as his own conscience bears down upon him for leaving Joe and Biddy to become a gentleman, and rejecting that sphere of life Joe and Biddy represent. Thus, in Pip's case, anxiety comes from giving into his desires instead of following down the most logical path for his training and status." (Lee). However, the most logical path is not always the preferred path: when Pip returns to the forge at the end of the book he finds it "offers nothing less than the reconstitution of the family as the medium of social and moral understanding." (Dickens, xvii). Before he left, however, this "understanding" was never there and so Pip would be hard pushed to miss it. Word Count: 1,907. ...read more.

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