In Victorian society, a gentleman was brought up from birth, molded and manipulated to act, dress, talk, and live as true gentility. Upon reaching adulthood, these gentlemen were expected to conduct themselves as society dictated. What happens, however, when a man of lower social stature wishes to become a gentleman, and suddenly finds himself in a position to do so? He now has the financial standing, but lacks the social etiquette that a "true" gentleman possesses. Whom can he turn to for a role model and guidance? This is exactly the situation Pip is faced with in the novel Great Expectations. When he first arrives in London, aspiring to be a gentleman, Matthew Pocket, Wemmick, and Herbert Pocket provide the best examples of true gentlemen.
Matthew Pocket displays the qualities of a gentleman as a hardworking tutor and a patient husband. Although he does not posses a great deal of wealth, Mr. Pocket houses well-to-do pupils, such as Startop and Drummle, and conducts himself in a gentlemanly manner. His passion for learning and knowledge is fervent, but his perseverance in Pip's education is even greater. Pip comments that, "...he was always so zealous and honorable in fulfilling his compact with me that he made me zealous and honorable in fulfilling my compact with him."(196). Although Pip learned to be hardworking in the forge, Matthew Pocket teaches him to work for the sake of others. Matthew's married life is quite a different story. His wife is so eccentric, adleheadded, and uneducated that he constantly lifts himself up by his hair. His patience with his wife, day in and day out, is extraordinary. For example, Mrs. Pocket doesn't greet Pip with ...
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In order to be able to live as a gentleman, Pip learns from the examples set by Matthew Pocket, Wemmick, and Herbert Pocket. Each contributes his own qualities to shed a different light on how a gentleman conducts himself. All contribute to help Pip become what he is at the end of the book, a true gentleman at last.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Edgar Rosenberg. New York: Norton, 1999.
French, A.L " Imprisonment: The Case of Great Expectations." Discussions of Charles Dickens, 82-92. William R. Clark, ed. Boston: D.C. Heath & Co., 1961.
Russell, Frazier. " 'When I Was A Child'- An Introduction to Great Expectations." Yahoo Homepage, 1. Penguin Reading Guides, 7 Nov. 2000. <www.penguinputnam.com/academic/classics/rguides/dickens/frame.html>.
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