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Great Expectations:What does Pip have to learn in order to achieve some measure of contentment?

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Introduction

Aaron Wardell 11.1.1 Great Expectations: What does Pip have to learn in order to achieve some measure of contentment? After reading the compelling 'Great Expectations' by the famous writer Charles Dickens, I can gather that it is based upon his own psychological insight to life. He makes connections in relation to a specific character or event in the storyline, which were critical in his own expectations. Also Dickens moulds his selection of characters very well into the desired settings he'd created, that matched what he knew only too well throughout his childhood. 'Great Expectations' not only satires the issues of Victorian society, yet centres on the rites of passage that marks an important change in a person's life. Dickens' issue of contentment is something that concerns many human beings; this is what Pip wants most. However he never really accomplishes this until the closing stages of the book. So what exactly is contentment? The dictionary defines it as a 'peace of mind', where the person is 'satisfied with things as they are.' Therefore contentment means to be happy and in Pip's case, happy with his life. The purpose of 'Great Expectations' is how contentment is achieved, with it being linked to Jeremy Bentham's answer of this. Bentham was a well-known philosopher and he said: 'humans strive to achieve self-fulfilment through the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.' Dickens relates this to Pip, in the sense that Pip wants to become a gentleman, who need not work and who can avoid the certain stresses of life. Dickens' early life is reflected by his main character in the novel. Through Pip, he presents a young and innocent boy, who changes his aspirations whilst growing up. Pip is often indirected by the themes of identity, love, money and class when trying to become the perfect and successful gentleman. Pip's gradual progression showed that he realised that moral values of a person, were far more important than materialistic values. ...read more.

Middle

And if it is to gain her over- I should think- but you know best- she is not worth gaining over.' (page125) The problem was that Pip thought he did 'know best' and had he listened to Biddy, he would have instantly forgotten Estella, not having to pursue the life of a gentleman in London, therefore achieving his contentment at the forge with Joe. Pip's ignorance displayed here is a lesson to us all; we should take on board what people say who have a greater experience of the world. Not only had Pip chosen to ignore Biddy, but also did not realise the strong feelings Biddy herself felt for him. Both Biddy and Estella had similar levels of education, but why does Pip lust for Estella? Well, Estella is from a much higher social sphere than Biddy and is rich, being heiress to Miss Havisham's vast property, whereas Biddy has nothing to her name. Based on appearances Estella is the gentlewoman, yet she treats Pip very unkindly, nevertheless she still remained the only woman to be loved by Pip. Biddy however is the complete opposite, kind and truthful towards Pip: 'Biddy was never insulting, or capricious, or Biddy today and somebody else tomorrow; she would have derived only pain, and no pleasure, from giving me pain; she would far rather have wounded her own breast than mine.' Herbert aides Pip even more in the step of becoming a gentleman by teaching him manners whilst up the dinner table. He offers his support in a polite way, yet still critical enough for Pip to enhance his education of common etiquette: 'Now I come to the cruel part of the story- merely breaking off, my dear Handel, to remark that a dinner-napkin will not go into a tumbler.' Why I was trying to pack mine into my tumbler, I am wholly unable to say. I only know that I found myself, with a perseverance worthy of a much better cause, making the most strenuous exertions to compress it within those limits. ...read more.

Conclusion

***** In my opinion Dickens cleverly analyses the different levels of contentment in his novel. The marshy countryside of the forge represents a rather humble lifestyle, but Joe and Biddy are much more content than most of the wealthier characters, in particular Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham lives in a grand house, yet still lives a bitter life inside it. This sums up the materialistic values of a higher class person; grand appearance on the outside, but unhappy and discontent on the inside. Miss Havisham's life is so displeasing that she lives it just to wreak revenge on the male sex. There are two lessons here in which Pip has learned from in order to be content: First is that no matter what anybody says or how ever much they offend him, if he is happy with his life then he must not seek revenge on them. Second is that money and wealth on their own do not always perhaps bring the contentment you require. I feel Pip learns these and a few other lessons well in order for him to achieve contentment. Dickens relates Pip's struggles to the ones he faced in his own life, in order to achieve contentment such as family problems, debt and education. Problems like these are overcome by sticking to a moral set of values, dispelling all the materialistic values which in the end leave a person unhappy. There is a clear message in the novel that the best way to achieve contentment is to live your life and learn from the positive and negative experiences of it. You must listen to the people who are close to you and their advice that they give, because this was one of Pip's downfalls. Even though 'Great Expectations' was written almost two centuries ago; we as readers know how to achieve contentment with our own lives, by controlling and getting rid of our fantasies and phobias whilst being aware that wealth and higher class doesn't necessarily mean a better way of life. ...read more.

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