"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens is a "Bildungsroman".

Authors Avatar

Importance of a main character to the novel

“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens is a “Bildungsroman”, a term that denotes a novel that presents the growth and development – within the context of a defined social order – of a single character, Philip Pirrip, better known as Pip. As the focus of the bildungsroman,  is by far the most important character in “Great Expectations”: he is both the protagonist, whose actions make up the main plot of the novel, and the narrator, whose thoughts and attitudes shape the reader's perception of the story.

As a character, Pip's two most important traits are his immature, romantic idealism and his naturally good conscience. On the one hand, Pip has a deep desire to improve himself, whether educational, moral, or social, “At last I began, in a purblind groping way, to read, write, and cipher.” His longing to marry  and join the upper classes stems from the same desire as his longing to learn to read and his fear of being punished for bad behavior: once he understands ideas like poverty, ignorance, and immorality, Pip does not want to be poor, ignorant, or immoral. Pip the narrator judges his own past actions extremely harshly, rarely giving himself credit for good deeds but angrily criticises himself for bad ones.

Join now!

As a character, however, Pip's idealism often leads him to perceive the world rather narrowly, seeing only the superficial value, leads him to behave badly toward the people who care about him. “I wished Joe had been more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too.” When Pip becomes a gentleman, for example, he immediately begins to act as he thinks a gentleman is supposed to act, which leads him to treat  and  snobbishly and coldly.

On the other hand, Pip is at heart a very generous and sympathetic young man, a fact that can be witnessed ...

This is a preview of the whole essay