Great Expectations: College Essay

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.