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In the light of your reading of "Great Expectations", what do you feel Dickens has to say regarding the qualities of a true "gentleman"?

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Introduction

In the light of your reading of "Great Expectations", what do you feel Dickens has to say regarding the qualities of a true "gentleman"? Throughout the Victorian era humanity was obsessed with social status and took every opportunity to search for meaningful existence within society. 'Great Expectations' follows Pip's journey from childhood to adulthood, acquainting with both the true and false qualities of a 'gentleman'. All through the novel, social class provides an arbitrary, external standard of value by which the characters judge one another. During Pip's progression of becoming a 'gentleman' he realizes appearance is not the main quality a gentleman should posses. Dickens provides Pip, the protagonist, with extreme challenges involving his genteel qualities to expose the obvious need of being accepted in the social hierarchy, even if this acceptance included dismissing known loved ones. Pip longs to be a "gentleman" in one sense but learns to be a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. This longing to become a gentleman arose when seven year old Pip first encountered with Estella and has followed Pip through every memory and incident which occurred afterwards. As a child, having met Estella, Pip changed his perspectives about his surroundings and his family, but most of all about himself. His longing to marry Estella from young age on influenced his behavior throughout his life and the book. "I want to be a gentleman on her account" Pip explains to Biddy. Pip's desire to be a gentleman is to live up to Estella's expectations and impress her by changing himself. Estella's harsh words and thoughts towards Pip affected his thoughts about his family, surroundings and himself. "He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy, and what coarse hands he has, and what thick boots!" - Estella "I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair." ...read more.

Middle

Biddy, being treated good or bad by Pip, always remained clam and polite towards him, this demonstrates that she was respectful and civil, "If only I could get myself to fall in love with you - you don't mind my speaking so openly to such an old acquaintance?" - Pip "Oh, dear, not at all! Don't mind me" - Biddy. Although Biddy lacks some aspects of a "gentleman" such as proper education and financial issues, she recites the inner aspects needed to be a "gentleman". Biddy teaches Pip to accept who he is and to appreciate himself and his surroundings. At the end of the novel he realizes that no external standard of value can replace the judgments of one's own conscience. Even thought Biddy's status isn't above on the hierarchy, she accepts whom she is, which is one of the most important features of being a true "gentleman". A fearsome criminal, Magwitch escapes from prison at the beginning of Great Expectations and terrorizes Pip in the cemetery. Pip's kindness, however, makes a deep impression on him, and he subsequently devotes himself to making a fortune and using it to elevate Pip into a higher social class. Behind the scenes, he becomes Pip's secret benefactor, funding Pip's education and opulent lifestyle in London through the lawyer Jaggers. Although Magwitch's appearance and background of a gentleman is absent, his inner self contains all the necessary elements of a true gentleman. "Look'ee here, Pip. I'm your second father. You're my son-more to me nor any son. I've put away money, only for you to spend. When I was a hired-out shepherd in a solitary hut, not seeing no faces but faces of sheep till I half-forgot wot men's and women's faces wos like." The quote is important for what it reveals about Magwitch's character: previously, the convict has seemed menacing, mysterious, and frightening; with this quote, we receive our first glimpse of his extraordinary inner nobility, manifested through the powerful sense of loyalty he feels toward Pip. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Pockets are a great example of showing false gentility. Camilla, Raymond and Sarah Pocket (Mathew Pocket's wife) are relatives of Ms. Havisham. Ones a year, on Ms. Havisham's birthday they come and visit her at her home. Their genteel character shown towards Ms. Havisham is a plan to inherit her money. Their reason to visit Ms. Havisham is only to convince her of their care and love towards her so Ms. Havisham would give them some money. "Dear Ms. Havisham, how well do you look!" said Ms. Sarah Pocket, "I do not" Ms. Havisham replied coldly. This shows that Ms. Havisham knows the reason the Pockets pay visits to her. The Pockets reason for visiting their family member is a sharp contrast to the genteel qualities a person should possess. After all their sweet talk and adulating, the Pockets didn't receive any money or possessions of Ms. Havisham. It is necessary to examine all the qualities a true gentleman should possess. Although in the Victorian era there were different views on what makes a gentleman, throughout his journey, Pip learned more about gentility and what it takes to be a true gentleman. At the end of this novel, Great Expectations, Pip summed up all the qualities desired to be a true gentleman. These qualities included upbringing and education, financial status, social standing, moral views such as Christianity, occupation, respect, politeness, aristocratic attitude and civilized. Every character who appeared in Great Expectations taught Pip a few things about true gentility, whether it was negative or positive. "No man who was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner. He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself" This advice was given by Mathew Pocket. I feel that Dickens tried to explains that a true gentle man has to posses the qualities on the inside before having them on the outside. ...read more.

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