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What does Pip have to learn in order to achieve some Measure of Contentment?

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What does Pip have to learn in order to achieve some Measure of Contentment? Great Expectations is a novel that not only satires the issues of Victorian society, such as status and crime, but additionally centres on the rites of passage for a child living in that society. It is through this central focus on rites of passage that Dickens is able to convey to the reader messages about the serious issues he felt so strongly about. One such issue is an issue that concerns all humans. It is the desire for contentment in ones life, which is central to the novel, as it follows Pip during his attempt to achieve this for himself. However, it is not until the end of the novel that Pip finally accomplishes some measure of contentment in his life. What is meant by 'contentment'? When defined, contentment is a state of happiness and satisfaction, or a sense of self-fulfilment, that allows you to feel at peace or at rest with your successes and failures in life. Dickens queries whether this is attainable in the novel by posing the question: how can this be achieved? Many philosophers and writers have tried to answer this question, for example, philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) said that humans strive to achieve satisfaction through the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. This theory is shown with Pip in the novel as he himself tries to achieve a measure of contentment by aspiring to become a gentleman, who has no need to work, therefore avoiding the 'pain' of life. The novel begins with Pip being about five or six years old. He is living at the forge with his sister Mrs Joe Gargery and her husband Joe, a blacksmith, because both Pip's parents and his five brothers have died. Mrs Joe proudly brings Pip up 'by hand', so Pip seeks refuge from his sister's violent temper in his friendship with Joe. ...read more.


Within a single year, this had all changed, and I would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account." (Page 103) This passage shows that although Pip recognises that home had never been a happy place for him, it was home. It was somewhere he could go to and know he was home. The melodramatic imagery and symbolism Pip uses to describe his home show how he felt pride in his humble dwelling. Nevertheless, Pip becomes deluded that the identity the forge offers to him is not for him, but that he is destined to become a gentleman. The last part of the passage shows how it is Estella and Miss Havisham that have caused this desire in Pip to change his identity and become a gentleman. As a gentleman, Pip uses his money and wealth to display an identity of high status, rather than through his true identity: Pip at the forge. He wears the clothes of a gentleman, owns a boat and servant like a gentleman should, and spends his money extravagantly. "In the evening there was rowing on the river. As Drummle and Startop had each a boat, I resolved to set up mine, and to cut them both out." (Page 189) This passage shows how Pip is ready to compete with others, so that he is known as the best, or that he has the best identity. Competing with others around him and trying to keep up with what they expect, for example, in this case, trying to keep pace with "Drummle and Startop" shows again how Pip is easily influenced by others to become what they think he should become, rather than what Pip genuinely wants. His opulence in possessions gives others around him in London the impression that he is a gentleman of high status. Since Pip is unsure of an affluent identity, he attempts to prove it usng his fortune, which demonstrates dissatisfaction of self. ...read more.


It is a successful piece of writing as Dickens's uses pairs of effective adjectives such as "shock of regret" and "violent indignation", which creates more impact on the reader and helps them to empathise with the way Pip is feeling. This then results in the reader feeling more of a connection to Pip as he strives to achieve contentment, and so helps them to learn more from the novel. In conclusion, it believe that Dickens' rite-of-passage novel Great Expectations is successful at presenting useful lessons to it's readers as to how they themselves can achieve contentment, despite being written in the 19th century. These are portrayed through Pip's own struggle to achieve contentment, many of the struggles relating to Dickens' own life, such as the issues like overcoming debt, unrequited love, family problems and poor education. Dickens shows in the novel how these things can be overcome, and contentment and satisfaction achieved, through the realisation of moral values, the dispelling of delusions and fantasies, and learning how to respond to people around you. However, despite this, the most important lesson, that comes through the novel, in learning how to achieve contentment in life is living it. Pip says that he was happy at the forge before he went to London, but he was not content (Page 315). Therefore, this suggests that the novel recommends that the best way to gain contentment is to live your life and learn through the experience of it; otherwise you would feel unsatisfied with your experience of life. And with your experience would come the lessons that Pip must learn in order to achieve contentment; good and bad values, to be able to control fantasies and phobias, listening to the advice of others, recognising that wealth does not bring satisfaction and, most importantly, to live your own life how you feel best the best way to live it is. Nicole Butcher What does Pip have to learn in order to achieve some measure of contentment? ...read more.

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