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Mihir Bhakta Mrs. Gardner English 10 Honors, Period 1 5 March 2013 Pip‟s Social Indifference In the coming-of-age novel, Great Expectations, the protagonist Philip Pirrip, or Pip, has experienced the different stages of the social ladder as he progressively evolves into a new social class. Within his lifetime, he becomes conflicted on what the definition of being a gentleman really since he believes that being gentlemen is characterized by the physical attributes that a gentleman entails, when it being a gentleman associates with more emotional factors. Blaming his brother-in- law, Joe, for not raising him correctly, facing ravishing remarks from his beloved Estella, and experiencing the dramatic lifestyle change in London have made prominent, and lasting changes on how Pip‟s perspective of what his “great expectations” was affected by his social class.. When Pip visits Ms. Havisham‟s manor in the beginning of the novel, he becomes exposed to what a gentleman should really be like after he was engulfed into the social sphere of the upper class. At Ms. Havisham‟s, he realizes in becoming a gentleman, he must be extraordinarily proper, having good manners, speaking with formal diction and other superficial characteristics. However, in being too engulfed into this state of mind that he may not achieve his goal of being a gentleman one day, he creates a scapegoat by blaming his brother-in-law Joe: “I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up and then I should I have been so, too.”
(Dickens 60) Pip thinks that Joe- modest and caring- being “brought up” in an improper way is rudimentary to him because he desires to have stricter policies just like Estella so that he would become more disciplined like a gentleman. Instead of having a light-hearted personality like Joe: Pip desires to already have the characteristics of a gentleman such as being polite and being accomplished embedded within him ever since he was born, so he doesn‟t have to strain so much energy doing so as he grows older. He uses Joe as a scapegoat because he is in denial of the actual reality and this ultimately motivated Pip as he notices that “I am not at all happy as I am today. I am disgusted with my calling and with my life,” (128). Pip fathoms over the life that he dreams to be however, not being born into the upper class served to become a great disadvantage to Pip since it was difficult for him to aspire to be someone of status when he essentially started with no status at all. This was prominent because his aspiration of becoming a gentleman arose after the realization that he is very much distasteful with his current situation of being in the lower class. Furthermore, Pips drive to become a gentleman reflects the theme of social class because he realizes that Joe is depriving him of obtaining his dreams since Joe is incapable of raising Pip as a gentleman, and because of the fact that Pip desires to ascend to the top of the social ladder to become a “gentleman.” Pip‟s “great expectations” of becoming a gentleman deepened after Estella confronts him for being a commoner since he was incredibly informal in the way he dressed, and how he expressed his rhetoric when he was a child, „“He calls knaves, jacks, this boy!‟ said Estella with disdain, before our first game he was out. And what course hands he has!‟ And what thick boots!‟”(59). Pip is even more insecure about his upbringing from his sister and from Joe. He has become desperate for change as he does not want to be regarded as a commoner anymore and this was the first stage in Pip‟s inner conflict of how he can become a gentleman. This signals his
urge to emerge into another social class because he wants to be regarded as public figure of more status rather than being a commoner with “coarse hands” and rugged boots. His insecurities are his driving force in becoming a gentleman because Estella‟s exploitation of his body were irrelevant and not up to standards in becoming a gentleman since “her contempt for me was so strong that it became infectious,” (59). Though her “infectious” comments may have been harsh, they really have helped Pip understand what the characteristics of being a gentleman are: being appealing. In London, Pip experiences a lifestyle change after he moves in with his best friend, Herbert. In London, Pip is now gradually moving the social ladder and begins to see how different life is from being in the rich, modernized cities than it is to lie in the more rural areas like at the forge. When Joe decided to visit him, Pip was awfully hesitant in having his brotherin-law come visit, even though he was his father figure in the entire novel. When Joe walks into Pip‟s new house, he is frazzled and is confused on how to address Pip: …“Whenever he relapsed into politeness he called me sir,”(222). This signified a discomfort in social classes because both Joe and Pip felt the same unpleasing aura that shrouded the room when they were in the presence of each other. The social indifference that emits from their conversation emphasizes the theme of social class because Joe feels as though he is completely inferior to Pip just because of the social status that Pip received after moving to London. This created a social barrier between the two of them because Joe now has to resort to calling Pip “sir” even though they are a part of the same family, but they live completely different lives. Not only did this social barrier enhanced his desires to become a gentleman, so did the fact that he thought Ms. Havisham was his benefactress: …”That the name of the person who is your liberal benefactor remai ns a profound secret,” (139). The enigma of Pip of having a secret benefactor bestowing him wealth in his
nearing future was revolutionary for Pip as he gains more status on the social hierarchy. Due to recent accounts at the Satis House, Pip believes that Ms. Havisham is his secret benefactress since she wants Pip to marry Estella. This motivated him to do more adult-like activities, which relates to the theme of social class because he had misconception that doing certain activities and behaving in a certain way doesn‟t signify if you are a gentleman, however, in the resolution of the novel, he realizes that being a gentleman comes within one‟s soul. He realizes that being a gentleman is not always associated by the things you do and the way you speak, but rather the way you treat others and yourself with respect, and being the most genuine and loving person you can be. In conclusion, Pip realizes the true meaning of being a gentleman after he blames his brother-in-law for raising him with no strict rules, facing Estella‟s rude remarks and experiencing the different ways of life between the rich and the poor in London. Although he may not have fulfilled his “expectations” of becoming a gentleman, he sincerely realizes that being at the top of the social hierarchy does not dictate whether or not one can become a gentleman or not, rather he realizes that a gentleman is crowned after he treats others and himself venerably and as well as having an authentic personality that outshines the stereotypes of the common gentleman.