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Sources of Sympathy for Pip in Great Expectations

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Sources of Sympathy for Pip in Great Expectations By Patricia Cove, Amherst Regional High School, class of 2001 PIP Great Expectations is a novel in which each character is a subject of either sympathy or scorn. Charles Dickens implies through his use of guilt and suffering that Pip is a subject of sympathy. Frazier Russell wrote that in Great Expectations "the protagonist (through his suffering and disappointment), learns to accept his station in life."1 Also through Pip's suffering comes the sympathy the reader feels for him. The majority of the suffering Pip is subject to in the novel is a result of the guilt he feels. As a child he suffers under an unfair burden of guilt placed on him by his sister. He also feels guilty because of his association with criminals and criminal activity throughout his life. During the second part of the novel, Pip falls from innocence into snobbery. Because of the double narrative Dickens chose to employ, the reader never loses sympathy for Pip. His final redemption comes when he is able to see his faults and recognize that he is guilty of snobbery. As a child, Pip is pitied by the reader because of his situation as the younger brother of Mrs. Joe, by whom he is constantly tormented. Mrs. Joe's treatment of Pip is not only unjust, but it influences Pip's view of himself and establishes in him a sense of guilt for merely existing. ...read more.


He carries a burden of guilt and disgust for crime throughout the novel. Robbing Mrs. Joe as a child, Pip tortures himself with guilty visions and a self-accusing imagination: The mist was heavier yet when I got out upon the marshes, so that instead of my running at everything, everything seemed to run at me. This was very disagreeable to a guilty mind. The gates and dikes and banks came bursting at me through the mist, as if they cried as plainly as could be, 'A boy with somebody else's pork pie! Stop him!' The cattle came upon me with like suddenness, staring out of their eyes, and steaming out of their nostrils, 'Halloa, young thief!' One black ox, with a white cravat on- who even had to my awakened conscience something of a clerical air- fixed me so obstinately with his eyes, and moved his blunt head round in such an accusatory manner as I moved round, that I blubbered out to him, 'I couldn't help it, sir! It wasn't for myself I took it!' Upon which he put down his head, blew a cloud of smoke out of his nose, and vanished with a kick-up of his hind-legs and a flourish of his tail.5 When he re-encounters Magwitch later, his memory is flooded with the images of his childhood. Likewise, his conscience haunts him when he hears of the attack on Mrs. ...read more.


In the last chapters of Great Expectations, Dickens gives the turning point in which Pip the Character is reborn, almost identical to Pip the Narrator. This change in Pip occurs when he realizes in the present what snobbery he is guilty of and how he is repressing his guilt: "For now my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe."11 In this realization, Pip is able to come to terms with his past. He suffers through the guilt he feels in his treatment of Joe and rises above his snobbery. He is also able to free himself of his criminal guilt when he sees Magwitch as a friend and benefactor, rather than a criminal. In this instant, Pip suffers for his failings and is finally forgiven by the reader. Pip suffers greatly through the burden of guilt he carries. His lowest point in the novel occurs when he fails to acknowledge the fact that he is guilty of behaving like a snob. However, he is redeemed to his situation of being a subject of sympathy when he realizes his guilt. When someone has fallen, it is only possible for him to rise again when he recognizes that he has fallen. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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