Great Expectations: College Essay

Dickens has described women in a different way. Mrs. Joe raised Pip by the hand, quite literally. He couldn’t do anything correct, and was hit and shoved unnecessarily (such as the use of Tickler when he came home late). She is what I have termed a “husband-beater”. This is very unusual for the time period of the book. At the time, many people were of the opinion that women were the weaker sex. So having the “weaker” be physically abusive towards the “stronger” was unheard of. It probably happened in real life, as in today, but it wasn’t talked about then. Even today husband-beaters are not widely discussed. Great Expectations probably raised quite a few eyebrows in its first publishing for portraying a woman in such a dominant role.

Mrs. Joe brings me to another point. I feel so sorry for Joe and Pip. Joe is so whipped. All his wife has to do is look at him to get him to do what she wants. Pip is also pushed around in much the same way. Their treatment led them to having a close relationship though. They shared things that friends share, such as the sign of their fingers in a cross to warn each other of Mrs. Joe being in a cross mood. After the convict was taken to the Hulk, and everyone thought he had stolen the missing food, Joe was the only person Pip would confess to. This shows that in addition to closeness, they share trust.

What is going on with Mrs. Havisham? The way her room and attire was described (all white, one shoe on, the clock and watch stopped at the exact same time, etc.) gave the impression that she is in some sort of mental time warp. Given that and the fact that she was in a bridal gown makes me think that on some day (probably near her wedding) at twenty to nine, some traumatic event happened involving her. She then went into some sort of psychotic episode. Regardless of the reason why she was dressed in such a manner and why the clocks were stopped, it is mentioned for a reason. Maybe it is foreshadowing something.

The book has certain comments that show Pip was a little kid when this first part happened. For instance, at Christmas Dinner he admitted that Mr. Whopsle’s Roman nose aggravated him so much that he could not concentrate on anything else. Also, it seems to have shifts into the voice of an adult looking back on childhood.

I feel that the book has reached a place where I can finally identify with Pip. When he took Biddy into his confidence, he mentioned that he was not happy with where he was in life. He went even further to say “Well, then, understand once for all that I never shall or can be comfortable… unless I can lead a very different sort of life…” I fully understand exactly what he means by that, because I have felt that way myself. He was content enough once upon a time, but after seeing how wealthy people live being a blacksmith wasn’t enough. It seems that he wondered why he should settle for a small house in a village when he could have a mansion in a large town, and ‘live it up’.

In this same conversation with Biddy, Pip wonders to himself about why he cannot get Estelle out of his head. He knows she would make him miserable if she were near (by putting him down) and Biddy made the point that she was not worth winning over. He wants what he cannot have; maybe because of the fact he cannot have it. It is in human nature to have some sort of fascination with an unattainable thing. This sort of characteristic makes Pip more believable.

Mrs. Joe’s near death is a bit puzzling. Dickens could have meant that overbearing and abusive women would get what’s coming to them. Or it could simply be that she needed to be in the background when Pip left for London. A third possibility is that it gave Pip a chance to evaluate the reasons behind her temper. Mr. Pumblechook did say that despite her anger she was probably well-intentioned.

To put a cap on the “first stage of Pip’s expectations”, this part was largely about the expectations towards what Mrs. Havisham would do for him. When Pip first started visiting Mrs. Havisham, Mrs. Joe and Mr. Pumblechook often discussed what she was doing and would do to improve Pip’s life. And throughout this first part of the novel, Pip wondered that himself- especially towards the latter section.

This section shows a growth in Pip. He develops a certain mind set about money. He learns that money is fun, and that spending it is enjoyable. After he becomes somewhat accustomed to his new life in London he mentions that in a few months he spent an “almost fabulous” amount of money. He spent most of that money on furniture, clothing and other material objects, suggesting that he is (or is on his way to being) materialistic. There are so many things he could have put his money toward, such as a fund benefiting the poor. Considering this, I believe he has not yet reached the maturity (or moral) level that often comes along with being charitable. Also, his financial situation is still new to him. Pip might be simply exploring his new world the way a toddler would explore a new surrounding.

Pip also has realized the power of money. Earlier in the novel he didn’t want to go through town in his new clothes because he didn’t want people to stare. At that time he had some grasp of the power of money. He knew that many are gravitated towards it, and towards those who have it. When he first gets to London, and a minister of justice approaches him he pays the man a shilling to go away. He wanted the man to go away because his appearance was poor and his clothes were extremely dirty. This exhibits two things: Pip now thinks he can pay any annoying person to go away, and he doesn’t want indigent people around him.

How Wimmick treats the Aged is very important to me. Maybe not so much to the book, but still important. He is 80-something and hard of hearing, yet he is treated as an equal. Wimmick listens to him read the paper aloud because the Aged enjoys it. The Aged is given the responsibility of making toast, and there are the signs that flip down when Wemmick or Miss Skiffins is at the door (which makes it easier for him). This contrasts a lot to today, when older people are often put in “the home” or a retirement community. Sometimes that is through their own choice, but when it’s not (and they are healthy enough to live normally) it sends a message that older citizens are too much bother and should be shipped off.

The characterization of the Aged is also interesting. While some older people are depicted as being grumpy and stubborn, he is depicted as a nice old guy who needs little to please him. The name ‘the Aged’ may have meaning as well. If he had been called the Old, a much different idea would have been shown. Old can suggest worn, decayed, etc. while Aged can suggest matured, experienced, etc. At the risk of taking this too far, the Aged could hold the meaning that getting older can and/or should be a more pleasant experience than a lot of people think.

“Across the Bridge” and “The Train from Rhodesia” Comparison Essay

*Author’s note: These are being published to provide students with a fresh perspective on some frequently-studied works of American and British literature and relevant classic movies shown in progressive English literature classes. Feel free to play around with my point of view but please do not plagiarize in part or in whole. Consider my text a stepping stone and allow your thoughts to flourish in your own writing.
In the short stories, “Across the Bridge,” by Graham Greene and, “The Train From Rhodesia,” by Nadine Gordimer, the idea of man’s individuality in society is explored through setting, characters and through certain incidents within the text. Through these literary concepts, numerous themes can be found which apply to modern American society.

One theme generated in “Across the Bridge” is loss of freedom and dignity due to Mr. Calloway’s attempt to cheat society. In the story the reader eventually comes to realize that Calloway committed a crime in England. He basically cheated people out of large sums of money. Because of this he is extradited and decides to go to Mexico where they can’t kick him out and send him with the authorities back to England. This leads Calloway to total despair and loneliness, which ties into another theme in “Across the Bridge” which is the human capacity for self-deception.

When Calloway becomes depressed about his situation, he remembers the primary reason he got into this mess – money. He assumed that if he became rich he would lead a fulfilling and happy life. He quickly found this not to be the case.

The same concept happens every day in modern-day American society. Every day one hears of a millionaire who has either become corrupt or simply finds his/herself unhappy and wanting more out of life than just a fat bank book.

The themes in “The Train From Rhodesia” are slightly more complex; however, they too pertain to today’s society. One theme closely tied into “Across the Bridge” is the dilemma of belonging to the well-to-do white minority in an impoverished black nation. No matter where you are, whether it is South Africa as in “Train From Rhodesia” or in Mexico like “Across the Bridge,” money, or a lack thereof a major issue on people’s minds. Because of the fact that in South Africa, the white minority has all of the money, while the black citizens remain in poverty, it is difficult for the two groups of people to come together.

This is illustrated during the time when the husband is attempting to buy the native’s hand-made lion for his wife at a huge discount. He doesn’t appreciate the hard work the native put into the lion and even though he does end up buying it, he doesn’t give the man the pay he deserves. After the purchase, the husband feels great pride in the fact that he ripped off the man and even looks at it selfishly as a triumph instead of blatantly realizing the other man was ripped off.

The dilemma of trying to make connections with other people in a setting which makes it hard to do so is another theme that ties into this situation. The only one in the story who could possible connect would be his wife. She is a compassionate person who realized and appreciated the amount of work the native put into the lion.

There was also a problem with different regions connecting in “Across the Bridge”. None of the people would speak to Calloway because, “He was a man with a million – and it never occurred to Lucia…to treat him casually like a human being…” The townspeople knew the detectives were there looking for him, but they were too much in awe of him to utter a single word to him, another reason Calloway was in his depressed state – he had no one to talk to.

Disillusionment is the major malfunction in both “Across the Bridge” and “The Train from Rhodesia”. Too many people believe that money and being brought up in different regions is a good-enough excuse to keep people separated and to make the same people tense about confronting the people on the other side of the bridge.

Great American?: An Essay on “Benito Cereno” by Herman Melville

Herman Melville is often praised as the greatest American novelist, although reading “Benito Cereno” the reader can discern a considerable critique of the society that embraces him. It is interesting to see such a critique come in a sometimes very subtle form. Captain Amasa Delano, who comes from Massachusetts, is our only American character in the novella and is portrayed in a stereotypical and often negative manner. It is through Captain Delano that the reader is given Melville’s negative interpretation of who or what an American is. Delano is gullible, devoutly Protestant, trusting, rash and most importantly, proud. Melville critiques the widely held idea by Americans that the American culture is superior to those of the antiquated Old World.
One of the many things that all American children learn in school is that the United States, as colonies, were formed so that the religiously persecuted English could find freedom to practice their religions. Most of these sects were of the Christian variety and the most prominent is the Protestant religion, a form of Christianity that was not highly accepted in England. Many English readers at the time of publication in 1855-1856, and now, would be able to pick up on the many references to the Christian foundation of the American culture. One very clear example of this Christian background is when Delano is talking to Cereno about the events that passed and he admits, “Yes, all is owing to Providence” (224). This view that all Americans are Christians is not necessarily a negative statement, but in the context of the other critiques Melville gives in his novella, it is a negative critique. It is quite stereotypical, even in the days of the publication when other religions such as Catholicism and Judaism were practiced and many sects of Christianity, all with different emphasized values and beliefs, existed. And, the Protestant values of America were thought by most Americans to be superior to the Catholicism of the Old World, here represented by the Spaniard Cereno, because of its charity and other qualities.

Delano is incredibly naïve and gullible, and this is repeatedly shown throughout the story. When he first sees the ship, he thinks it strange that it “showed no colors” (144), a peaceful and common tradition of all seamen-however, he still goes to the ship to see if help is needed in a vulnerable little whaling boat. This not only shows his trust in unknown and possibly dangerous people but also his charitable nature which is a good Christian trait. Melville would want to display to the reader that Americans trust other countries too often because they overestimate their safety in the situation. This helps show how overly proud the Americans are and how this may eventually be detrimental to the safety of the country.

And if pride is a sin, don’t tell the Americans. Though the overall book is not heavy with the stench of American pride, Delano does let loose his occasionally. When Cereno is questioning Delano about his cargo and ship, trusting Delano tells all and does so “with satisfaction” (166). He is so proud of his men and his control over them that he is certain they are all on board and accounted for. And he delays not at all in letting Cereno know of his prowess in contrast to the ineptness of Cereno to control his ship. Again, this relates Melville’s point about the fallacy of being too proud. This pride invites danger because America will not be cautious with information and might reveal too much like Delano does.

The Americans are also rash, according to Melville. Not only does Delano decide quickly to go and mount a strange ship in order to help, but he is also quick to want to go after the ship of rebels. Only after the Spaniard captain is able to restrain him, does Delano allow the crew to go without him as he is needed to head his ship. This quick action without contemplative thought is often a mistake of naïve and proud peoples, and Melville is cautioning America that it is better to think before reacting. He seems to prefer that America seek other countries (Spain, for example, with the representation by Cereno) to deliberate and discuss possible solutions instead of being too proud and short-sighted by thinking America can handle the problem alone.

This leads us to the interference of Americans described in the book. Delano sees the ship and crew of Cereno are in desperate need of aid and being the charitable Christian, he gives them what they need and more. But once he is there, he can’t help but criticize the way things are run in comparison to his own tidy fleet. Also when the wind finally picks up, he sees that Cereno is in no shape to take charge and decides to take action himself and bring the ship into the safe harbor. He yells orders to men of whom he is not the boss and is pleased to see those orders so readily obeyed. This displays the readiness of Americans to interfere and strive for leadership in the situation. They are too proud to be inferiors to anyone else, so when they do interfere the Americans must be either the leader, here the captain, or be equals in partnership. And of course, instead of discussing the change of power with the supposed Captain Cereno, the proud American Delano just assumes his superiority to the others around him, even the Spaniard sailors.

Americans are also portrayed as preoccupied with courtesy systems that include reciprocity for deeds done. There are several mentions of Cereno not being very courteous when Delano has been polite or, at the least, expects courtesy. The most glaring example is towards the end of Delano’s stay on Cereno’s ship and the two ships are finally side by side. Delano approaches Cereno to invite him upon his ship in return for having hosted him all day. Cereno declines in an unceremonious manner and this is the last straw for Delano. He has been nice and polite all day while Cereno has been distant, awkward and sometimes even rude and Cereno furthers his “heedless[ness] of common propriety” (200) by not making the final attempt to thank Delano for his friendliness and charity. Finally, this is when Delano wants no longer to be of any further assistance and can’t wait to be back on his own ship, amongst his own men. Melville’s American then is seen as having his pride hurt. So, Americans are sensitive, not only proud, and as they are already portrayed as rash and interfering, this hurt pride could possibly lead to dangerous political situations.

Melville presents his American, Captain Amasa Delano, as rash, gullible and very proud. These are generally seen as very negative characteristics and if most Americans were asked to describe themselves, these would not be the adjectives of choice. He may have been trying to show the Americans as a new culture with budding powers and that’s why they are so gullible and naïve. However, I think that this short story, “Benito Cereno,” is Melville’s critique of the proud American culture that thinks itself superior. The society of the United States is represented in this book as a very naïve, rash, proud and Christian culture, which Melville critiques heavily. It is interesting to note this while reading the book because it makes the reader question what Melville really thought of the culture that so thoroughly embraced him.