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Finding Happiness in Great Expectations
Great Expectations is a coming of age novel. This novel is a story of Pip and his initial dreams and resulting disappointments that eventually lead him to becoming a genuinely good man. During his journey into adulthood, Pip comes to realize two diverse concepts of being a gentleman and he comes to find the real gentlemen in his life aren't the people he had thought.
Encouraged by Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook, as a child Pip entertains fantasies of becoming a gentleman. In the eyes of Pip a gentleman is to be wealthy, educated and have a high class, thus Pip's desires. In his mind, Pip has connected the ideas of moral, social, and educational advancement so that each depends on the others. The coarse and cruel Drummle, a member of the upper class, provides Pip with proof that social advancement has no inherent connection to intelligence or moral worth. Drummle is a lout who has inherited immense wealth, while Pip's friend and brother-in-law Joe is a good man who works hard for the little he earns.
Significantly Pip's life as a gentleman is no more satisfying--and certainly no more moral--than his previous life as a blacksmith's apprentice. Pip's desires for educational improvement have deep connections to his social ambition and longing to marry Estella: a full education is a requirement of being a gentleman so he thinks. As long as he is an ignorant country boy, he has no hope of social advancement. Pip understands this fact as a child, when he learns to read at Mr.
Wopsle's aunt's school, and as a young man, when he takes lessons from Matthew Pocket. Ultimately, through the examples of Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch, Pip learns that social and educational improvement are irrelevant to one's real worth and that conscience and affection are to be valued above sophistication and social standing. This new understanding shows Pip who the real gentlemen are.
As Pip grows in age he grows in wisdom and his true identity unfolds as he discovers what it means to be a gentleman. When Pip was young, he knew only of the stereotypical figures of a gentleman. However, Pip comes to the realization that wealth and class are less important than affection, loyalty, and inner worth.
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