"Great Expectations" By Charles Dickens: Gentleman In The Victorian Era

The aim of this essay is to analyze what being a gentleman really meant in the Victorian era. In order to achieve this I will have as a start point the image of the gentleman in the novel „Great Expectations”. On the following, I will focus in how a gentleman should be educated and what society expects from him.

Pip is an orphan child who is being raised by his sister, Mrs. Gargery and her husband Joe Gargery, who is a blacksmith. As a child, Pip does try his best in order to learn what he is being taught at Mr. Wopsle`s evening school where he learns how to read and write, but he lacks a purpose for doing it. He lived a simple life and wished to become Joe`s apprentice and that is all that Pip expected from his life.

However, all of it changes when one day, his uncle Pumblechook takes him to Satis House, where he meets Miss Havisham, a rich and eccentric woman and a young girl around his age named Estella, whom Pip finds very pretty, but also very insulting.

Nevertheless, he realizes overtime that he fell in love with her and wants to become a gentleman in order to have a chance to be with her, because she belongs to a higher social sphere than him. The first person to whom he confesses his dream is Biddy, his first teacher, saying „ I want to become a gentleman”. Sadly for him, Miss Havisham has other plans for Pip and she helps him become Joe`s apprentice, contrary to his expectations.

Several years pass by and Pip works as a laborer for Joe and he still studies with Biddy. One day his life changes when a lawyer names Jaggers tells him that he earned a fortune, and that he has to come to London, for his secret benefactor wants his to become a gentleman. Pip assumes that the mysterious benefactor is Miss Havisham who wants to marry him to Estella.

Pip starts to behave snobbish and cold towards Joe and Biddy, but when he leaves them he feels remorse. Chapter nineteen ends with the author`s explanation that „ this is the end of the first stage of Pip`s expectations”.

In London, Pip becomes friends with Herbert Pocket, whom he first met as a child in the Garden of Satis House. Herbert teaches Pip how to be well mannered while eating, for example not to put the knife in his mouth while eating and how to hold the spoon and the fork. Pip father deals with Pip`s education and he is making great progress.

However Pip gets the wrong idea of how a gentleman should be like: he becomes snobbish, and is ashamed of his background, because society promotes the wrong idea of the gentleman. To be from a rich and respectful family and to be well mannered was enough to be perceived by the society as a gentleman, regardless of how that person`s behaviour was like. As a result people like Bentley Drummle or Compeyson were seen as gentlemen, even if the first one is described as „sluggish” while the second one is a conman, who conspired with Miss Havisham`s brother in order to steal her money, and then he jilted her. Moreover, at the trial, he almost gets away with all of his illegal activities compared to Magwitch.

In comparison to them people like Joe Gargery who lives a modest life, but he is proud of it and of what he is doing, should be appreciated. Despite how bad Pip treated Joe, he still takes care of him and pays his debts so Pip won`t end up in jail. Also Abel Magwitch, who is a criminal, is impressed by Pip and decides to become his benefactor and he works hard in Australia, so Pip can live a wealthy life.

Pip`s expectations as a gentleman were that he will live a wealthy life, will be respected and his biggest expectation is that he will marry Estella. These expectations were grouped into two sections, according to the author. Pip`s expectations changed over time: if in the beginning he was more than happy to live a simple life; his expectations change when he meets Estella and thus he wants to become wealthy, to live a better life, to be better educated, to have other people around him and to earn respect from everyone. However, this does not make him happier and when he discovers than his benefactor is actually Abel Magwitch and not Miss Havosham he realizes that his greatest expectation will never fulfill and he will never be worthy to marry Estella.

To sum up everything that I have just said, it is obvious that Pip evolves and in the end he finally gets the right idea about what it really means to be a gentleman.

10 October 2020
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