Great Expectations coursework
How does dickens used characters in volume one to present the themes of great expectations?
‘Great expectations’ is a novel about a young boy called Pip. He has bought up in a working class society but he longs to be upper class. The story follows how he makes his way to a higher class but somehow forgets who is along the way.
Some of the themes in the novel are class-system, revenge, family and education. Class is a main theme and the whole storyline focuses on this, and how concerned Victorian society was about it. You could tell just by looking at a person whether they were lower, middle or upper-class. You could change class but you would have to have the right clothes, money, job and accent to fit into the way of living. However dickens himself did not think that wealth necessarily made you a better person.
Pip is the main character in ‘Great Expectations,’ he is involved in all the themes of the novel.
The class system is a focal point in young Pip’s life. As a child he began to feel ashamed of who he was. He was in fact a normal boy living in a working class family with his sister and her husband. His mother and father had died leaving him an orphan. Pip says ‘I never saw my father or mother.’ His sister’s husband, Joe was a blacksmith. He had a fairly respectable job and earned a living for his small family.
Pip first began to think about his place in society when he was sent to visit a wealthy old lady named Miss Havisham. It was here where he was introduced to an upper-class girl named Estella. She would mock Pip and say things such as ‘What coarse hands he has,’ and call him ‘a common labouring boy.’ These remarks made Pip become increasingly self-conscious and he soon began to see himself in a different light. He hated who he was but strangely still felt a great warming towards Estella. He was determined to be good enough for her.
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The theme of family issues comes through strongly here as well as it would seem that Pip despises Joe for the life they lead and Pip may be seen as a stern and harsh character. When Pip writes a letter to Joe he begins it ‘Mi dere Joe.’ This shows how he does have feelings for him and sees him as a fatherly figure.
In later years Pip is giver a large amount of money from a mystery person and with this he is trying to become a gentleman. He is still in love with Estella but still the love is not returned as she shows no emotion towards him. It also seems Pip wants to forget his past including his family and he begins to feel ashamed of Joe.
Joe is however a lovely man, he protected Pip when he was a little boy from the beatings he would have endured from Mrs Joe. Joe isn’t a very clever man either. He has a lack of education. Pip once asks him; ‘why didn’t you go to school Joe.’ This lack of education doesn’t make him a less-likable character though. In some ways we like him more because we feel sorry for him, also because Mrs Joe beats him. Joe does nothing about this as his mother was beaten by his father ‘He hammered away at my mother.’ Joe doesn’t want to react with violence and be like his Father did. He didn’t have a happy family life as a child and wants Pip to be happier. Joe also sees how much Pip loves Estella and hopes he will get his dreams.
The probable reason that Pip is infatuated by Estella is that she is the only beauty he has ever known or seen in his dull life. She is also the one thing he couldn’t have which makes her even more desirable. When he first met her he spoke to Miss Havisham about her and said ‘I think she is very pretty’ and ‘I am not sure that I shouldn’t like to see her again’ These two quotations show us how he had his heart set on her, then relating it to later on in the novel we can see he has not had a change of heart.
The further the novel continues the more Pip becomes a less-likable character. His attitude towards everything around him changes and the only thing he cares about is himself.
Dickens has a very similar attitude on society, quite similar to Pip. Dickens also started off lower class and built his way to the top. He saw how wealth supposedly made life easier and poverty made it miserable. I think dickens bases the character of Pip on himself.
Closely related in the way of the storyline are Miss Havisham and Estella. Miss Havisham is an old woman full of misery and heart-break. She lives in a mansion called satis house with Estella. Miss Havisham invites Pip to come and ‘Play’ at the house. It is all part of a plan and she says she has ‘sick fancies.’ This shows something strange is going on in her mind. Their house is more like a Prison and Miss Havisham is a prisoner in her own home as she never leaves the house. ‘The windows had been walled up’ and ‘old brick and dismal had many great iron bars to it.’ These are quotes about the house from the book which show us the appearance of the place in which they live. Estella is a great contrast as she is so beautiful. She is also under the control of Miss Havisham. This is where we can see the theme of education. Usual education for children was schooling but Estella’s lessons are of a different nature. She is trained to hate men and also taught how to break men’s hearts. This is done because once, Miss Havisham was to get married to the love of her life but she was stood up at the altar. She can’t get over this and ever since the event she has remained in her wedding dress. Pip describes the dress saying ‘she was dressed in rich materials-satins and lace and silks. This not only shows she has a lot of money and is upper class but it also shows how she is trapped in time with her bad memories. The theme of revenge comes through here as Estella is her revenge on mankind and it is also a very selfish way of Miss Havisham feeling better about her self.
Although this happens they do seem to need each other as they both have no family. Estella is an orphan like Pip and Miss Havisham’s only family are distant relatives which are only after her money.
As Estella grows up she is quite unhappy but she seems to bare no emotions when she was a child she did not realise what Miss Havisham was doing. She does not think she will ever fall in love because she is afraid and doesn’t know how to! Pip has told Estella how he feels about her many times but she doesn’t know how to respond. Estella later told Pip; ‘you did not open you’re round childish eyes to the discovery of that impostor of a woman who calculates her stores of peace of mind,’ Estella is implying that Miss Havisham tricked her for satisfaction and revenge.
Estella is so confused and it seems she is going to marry a man she doesn’t even love either because she’s frightened up like Miss Havisham or even to get revenge on Miss Havisham because she wants to prove she will not live in her shadow,
Estella is a very complexed character. She misleads tricks and treats people unfairly but we can’t help liking her because of how she was treated as a young girl and her longing of a normal family life.
A Convict named Magwitch who escaped from prison seems of virtually no importance at the beginning of the novel. He is actually the character that has the most effect on everything that happens.
Magwitch is initially presented as an animal and the lowest class. Dickens vividly describes him writing words such as ‘shivered, glared and growled.’
This makes the man seem more like a creature than a human. Looking at his clothing and accent he was marked out as poor.
This is very stereo-typical as the irony of the novel is that he is the one that earns and gives Pip his fortune. Pip is a benefactor of Magwitch’s wealth; this money allows Pip to become a gentleman. Magwitch has always wanted to get revenge on the society he lives in for punishing him and sending him to prison. He wants to prove this by showing that anyone can be upper-class if they are given the right money and education. Pip is his example to show this. In the mind of Magwitch he is achieving his revenge although Pip never really realizes this.
From all of the main characters if the novel shown above and the way they all express the main themes. Dickens paints a picture of what Victorian society was like. I think it was very strict and it was also very hard to fit in. Dickens shows how money and education affected your life.
Great expectations is a real eye-opener to the mind behind this corrupt society.
By Emily Batty 10-6