Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

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Great Expectations’ main character, Phillip Pirrip- generally known as Pip- had a rough upbringing as a child. His sister, Mrs. Joe had “brought him up by hand”, after their parents and five brothers had all been laid to rest many years ago. Another character, Herbert Pocket experienced a bizarre childhood, though in a different manner. Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations develops through the novel following Pip, a young “common boy” who grew up in the countryside. As he matured so did his love for a girl of higher class, Estella. However, being a common boy, Pip was not good enough for his Estella, thus once he was given an opportunity to become a gentleman in London he seized it without much hesitation. Charles Dickens’ had his own style in the ways he portrayed his child characters’ upbringings, history, and the children’s emotions. Also in Great Expectations, Dickens creates his child characters in unique methods; Pip, Estella, and Herbert Pocket all have miserable backgrounds, however none of them is too similar.

Pip didn’t know his parents, thus there love and comfort, he never felt. In the absence of parents there are plenty of people who tell Pip what to do, to bully him, in a self-satisfied, self-enhancing way, but there is no one to shield him or guide him, or give him the special kind of love that he seeks. Dickens’ child characters were impeded emotionally in some way: Most of his child heroes and heroines are born sound in their physical form, but a loving home is what they most obviously lack and need. Pip had his wicked sister as a mother figure, thus the warmth and love a stereotypical modern-day mother would give was absent. However, Pip didn’t feel pain for having this hole in his life, because he had never felt the power of unconditional love before. Pip was an orphan. Orphans were one of Dickens' favourite subjects; what could be more crippling emotionally, than not experiencing the support of a mother and father? Pip’s sister, Mrs. Joe, didn’t make this loss much easier. Although they had both lost their parents, Mrs. Joe, never openly displayed any grief for losing her parents and five brothers. Consequently, she complained about having to bring Pip “by hand” and dealt with him physically (with the Tickler) and emotionally. Mrs. Joe talked about him openly as if he had no thoughts or feelings of his own. But, Pip still had some bright...

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...kens’ idolised in his writing.

To conclude, in order for children to succeed in life Charles Dickens felt their needs must be met. Through his portrayal of child characters in the novel, Great Expectations, Dickens' demonstrates how adults rarely, nor adequately provided for these particular needs that children have. It seems as long as they remain children, that the child characters in Great Expectations will be unhappy. There is no question that children were, in fact, his favourite subjects; and that many of his characters.


1) David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page:
2) Great Expectations - study guide
3) Pip's World: A Hypertext on Charles Dickens's Great Expectations:

Collins, Philip. Dickens and Education. New York: St. Martin's P, 1964.
Rawlins, Jack P. "Great Expectations: Dickens and the Betrayal of the Child." Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 23 (1983): 667-683.

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