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Pip wants 'to be a gentleman'; Estella is educated for a 'lady'. What does this novel have to say about the qualities that are vital in order to be a good person? How relevant are these values to today's society?

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Introduction

Pip wants 'to be a gentleman'; Estella is educated for a 'lady'. What does this novel have to say about the qualities that are vital in order to be a good person? How relevant are these values to today's society? Great Expectations explores the qualities that constitute good people, that is gentlemen and ladies, through its various characters. Dickens' idea of an ideal gentleman is similar to that of Newman, who wrote a guide for young men going to university in 1852, advising them on how they should act. They suggest that a gentleman would be someone who was truthful, had sensitivity to others and was self-aware. Dickens' prime example of a good person in Great Expectations is Joe Gargery. Joe is always honest and truthful; a good example of this is when he goes to visit Pip after Pip has become a gentleman. He tells Pip where he belongs 'I'm wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th'meshes.' He understands the differences between them and is truthful because he doesn't pretend that he is at home in London. In this speech Joe is also humble, polite and modest. He blames himself, instead of Pip to make sure Pip feels good about himself. 'If there's been any fault at all to-day, it's mine.' This is a strong contrast to Bentley Drummle, as John Mahoney wrote in his guide to Great Expectations1, 'gracelessness and surly, arrogant manner'. ...read more.

Middle

This is a direct contrast with Mrs Joe for whom even her funeral was sham and pompous. 'I was much annoyed by the abject Pumblechook, who, being behind me, persisted all the way as a delicate attention in arranging my streaming hatband, and smoothing my cloak.' Newman describes how a true gentleman's concern is to make 2 'everyone at their ease and at home', and Herbert's behavior is an example of this. When he sees Joe as he visits Pip in London, Joe is feeling uncomfortable and out of place and Herbert tries to correct that by asking polite, easy to understand questions, and, when it was still awkward, he left, to allow Pip and Joe to talk alone. He also comforts Pip when he first comes to London by giving him some fruit, which he thinks he will be used to because he is from the country. Wemmick exhibits this trait too. He ensures that his father is always kept 'clean, cheerful, comfortable and well cared for'. He also has his house with a moat surrounding it because it makes his father feel secure when he leaves him for work. However, at work Wemmick acts very differently, he leaves his gentlemanly side behind and puts his business-like, 'postbox' mouth on, as he remarked 'Walworth is one place, and the office is another'. At one point when Pip is asking his advice Wemmick even says that if Pip had asked him the same question at home he would have answered completely differently. ...read more.

Conclusion

He killed Mrs Joe when Pip was old enough to 'kill off' his parents and gain his independence. Dickens doesn't want us to understand Orlick, or feel a drop of sympathy for him. He is Pip's alter ego, he does the things Pip would never dare do, or unconsciously thought. Dickens is showing us that if you have money, this does not necessarily make you a gentleman. Drummle is an obvious example that money and class alone do not make a gentleman. On the other hand, Joe and Herbert, who are poor, are the main examples of true gentlemen in the text; they show the true qualities that compose a good person. Pip is a developing character, and therefore changes from a small innocent little boy, into a snob, and then a much more mature, wiser and sadder Pip develops at the end of the narrative. I feel that Pip is a gentleman though at the end, throughout he is self aware, and he has done favours to Herbert. With Magwitch there for Pip to care for and love, he managed to mature and grow out of the sham and elitist younger Pip. I think that all these qualities that make up a good person are definitely still relevant today. Just as the factors that constitute a good person are the same for the poor, as for the rich in Dickens's time, they are just as important to people now as they were then. If Joe or Herbert came into this century we would admire the gentlemanly characteristics in them, just as Pip saw the good in them in the nineteenth century. ...read more.

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