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What constitutes the Victorian idea of a gentleman? How does Dickens qualify this idea in his novel 'Great Expectations'?

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Introduction

What constitutes the Victorian idea of a gentleman? How does Dickens qualify this idea in his novel 'Great Expectations'? Firstly I will start by determining what the Victorians idea of a gentleman is. The Victorians believed a gentleman as a superior position in society, or having the habits of life critical of this. The phrase "superior position" implies social status, or being a member of the aristocracy, while the second part of the quote, "having habits of life critical of this," implies the change in attitude of a gentleman. Furthermore there are two different types of gentleman are presented to the reader throughout Great Expectations. The first is Pip's earlier definition, where he finds a gentleman to be someone with wealth, "breeding", education, and social status. This materialistic definition of a gentleman is exactly like the description of Bentley Drummle, who, however is obviously not a gentleman in behaviour or manners - "...he was idle, proud, niggardly, reserved and suspicious. He came of rich people ... who had nursed this combination of qualities until they made the discovery that it was just of age and a blockhead." ...read more.

Middle

It also emerges as the novel progresses that Pip is leading Herbert astray rather - he encourages him to spend money, until they are both quite deeply in debt. This is revealed by Clara, Herbert's fianc�e, after it becomes clear that Pip has not met her because she doesn't approve of him - "The truth was, that she had objected to me as am expensive companion who did Herbert no good..." The fact that Herbert has become such a gentleman seems all the more surprising when you meet his family - his mother especially, is rude, lazy and treats her children disinterestedly, whilst his aunts and uncles are all money-grabbing, gathering around Miss Havisham to attempt to get into her good books. Herbert's overwhelming politeness and patience is particularly contrasted to Pip's increasing rudeness and bad behaviour when Joe comes to stay. Herbert treats Joe better than Pip himself treats Joe. Joe is extremely uncomfortable, and Pip does nothing to try to relieve his feelings, but Herbert is polite and courteous, and does his best to set Joe's mind at ease. ...read more.

Conclusion

hart and never getting no peace in her mortal days, that I'm dead afeerd of going wrong in the way of not doing what's right by a woman..." When Pip becomes ill, it is Joe that nurses him through his illness, when no-one else looks after Pip. Joe pays off Pip's debt to the bailiffs, and he does not ask for thanks, in fact he doesn't even tell Pip. He leaves quietly without telling Pip, and Pip realises how badly he has treated Joe over the years: 'O Joe, you break my heart! Look angry at me, Joe. Strike me, Joe. Tell me of my ingratitude. Don't be so good to me!" The fact that Joe is meant to represent the true gentleman in the novel is enhanced by something Pip says - he calls Joe a "Gentle, Christian, Man". As well as making reference to the religious way in which Joe is described, it also gets to the very root of the definition of a gentleman - someone who is polite and treats people well (gentle) and someone who observes the Christian views on how to treat people (Christian). ...read more.

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