Great Expectations

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Great Expectations

Josh Billings once said "to bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while". There are few things as important in the development of youth as the influence of the adults that surround them. The example of influential adults will almost always dictate, in some way, the behaviour of children. Young people look for role models and examples in the adults they meet. In Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations (1860), vivid adult characters such as the eccentric Miss Havisham, the enigmatic lawyer Jaggers, the simple but kind blacksmith Joe and the mysterious convict Magwitch have fundamental influences over the development of the story's protagonist, Pip. They do this in two ways. In a novel about a young man's moral education, the major secondary adult characters in the story contribute to Pip's growth either as instigators of his expectations or as paternal figures or sometimes as both.

Appropriately, the characters who bring about Pip's "expectations" play an integral part in his life; they influence him and shape his development throughout the novel. Firstly, Miss Havisham's was a significant impact on Pip's life. It is at Satis house, her strange, decaying mansion, that he initially comes into contact with the upper class life for which he later aspires. As his first contact with a wealthy person, Miss Havisham prompts Pip to try and better himself financially. She also, indirectly, pressures Pip into changing through her influence over Estella. Estella's cruel behaviour towards Pip is the direct result of Miss Havisham's teachings. Embittered by her own broken engagement, Miss Havisham taught the girl to be cruel to men, so she learned to "break their hearts and have no mercy!" (Dickens, 108). Thus, the beautiful Estella's cold reaction to Pip and the way she patronizes him are major reasons why he felt the need to change. It was she who convinced him that he was "in a low-lived bad way" (75) and needed to heighten his social status in order to be worthy of her notice. The impact of Miss Havisham's financial splendor and indirect cruelty make her a crucial instigator of change in Pip.

Unlike the will to change that Miss Havisham's influence inspires, the presence of the lawyer Jaggers in Pip's life brings tangible means to change. As the bearer of the news of Pip's new fortune and his guardian throughout his education, Jaggers, acting on behalf of his unidentified client, is the character who transforms Pip's life financially allows him to hope for the life Miss Havisham and Estella inspired him to have.

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