Great Expectations is semi-autobiographical story of an orphan named Pip. It started with his life from early childhood until adulthood. It is semi-autobiographical because most of the story is derived from the author, Charles Dickens’ life.
Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip, an orphan, and the leading character of the story. Pip does not have a lot of prospect in life. He is trained to become a blacksmith. He fell in love with Estella Havisham who mocks him and his status in life. This is the reason why Pop becomes ambitious and wants to have a better life.
Pip’s great expectations can be grouped into three. His first expectation starts when Pip lives a lowly existence with his ill-tempered older sister and her gentle husband named Joe Gargery. Pip is, at first, contented with his way of life and his caring friends until he finds a job as companion to a rich but resentful woman, Miss Havisham and her proud adopted daughter, Estella. His love for Estella injects ambition in his youthful mind. He wants to leave his simple life and be a gentleman so he could be worthy of Estella’s love.
Pip does not have much self-confidence. He does not feel any importance from his sister or from the object of his affection Estella. He feels guilty for being a burden to his sister. His sister never stops reminding him that she suffered much because of him. Friends and relatives do not nurture his shaky self-esteem as they too agreed that he should be grateful to his sister.
Perhaps the only thing positive in his life is his friendship with Joe. Joe’s common and unrefined life though does not come up to his sister and Estella’s high standards. They teach Pip to aim for the finer things in life and not value the simple life. It is their influence and his insecurities that fuel his ambition and desire to escape from a life of hardship and poverty.
Pip is kind of passive. He is not the type to show strong emotions. He does not exhibit passion or determination. He seems to go with the flow, wherever it will take him with no force on his own. He dreams a life of ease.
Estella lives in a fairy tale world characterized by power, beauty, wealth and refinement, everything Pip is not. He is enamored in that make-believe word where Estella revolves. This becomes the only thing he is passionate about – to be in the world where Estella is and to have lots of money. He is willing to give up everything – his friendship with Joe, the forge and his own beliefs just to be a part of that world.
After working for years as companion to Miss Havisham and Estella, he becomes an apprentice to Joe, aspiring to become a blacksmith. His life suddenly turns around when a London attorney, Mr. Jaggers, informs Pip one day that he is to come into the “great expectations” of huge property and be trained to be a gentleman on the behalf of an anonymous benefactor.
This is the second stage of Pip’s expectations as he leaves for London and becoming a gentleman. He is equipped with the finest tutors, proper outfits and a part of a cultured society. He used to rely on his own efforts for support but with his inheritance he receives a generous allowance. He often lives beyond his means. He learns to fit in a new group of people and finds himself in the same circles as Estella.
As he learns the physical and cultural norms required in his new status, he also learns the class attitudes that inevitably comes with it. So much so that when Joe comes to visit about the same time as his friend and roommate Herbert delivers an important message, Pip feels so embarrassed of Joe even though he loves his good friend.
This is probably because he hates the common life that Joe represents. He leaves his simple life to become a part of the sophisticated world when he luckily inherits money from an unknown benefactor. From an anonymous case, Pip becomes somebody. Even Estella notices his sudden rise to power, money and fame. Everything that he dreams of becomes a pulsating reality. Pip is living the life he always wanted.
He acquires wealth and he wants everything that comes with it – respect, popularity and greed. Pip transforms in the process. He becomes obsessed, greedy and sophisticated. He shuns his old friends particularly Joe and Biddy who reminds him of his old life. He cringes in shame as his so-called friends see his former acquaintances. Joe and Biddy are obviously no longer a part of his complicated world.
Pip shows his worst self in the process. But he is not pure evil. Even at his worst times, he still manages to show his good self. He helps Herbert sets up business. He only realizes his mistakes when he learns who the real source of his wealth is- Magwitch, a criminal.
The third and last stage of Pip’s expectations changes Pip’s life when he realizes the surreal world he revolves in. His stint with the upper class forces him to deal with realities that about himself and the world he is part of such as moral, physical and financial challenges.
He learns some truths which shakes the unsteady world he stands for. The values that he once accepted so eagerly now come to light. He also finds that he cannot regain most of the important things that he once cast aside in favor of his new life, a life which does not really exist.
His wealth and fame are short-lived. He rose in social stature not because of hard labor or honest means but through some blood money he inherits from someone who is shun by society. He wakes up from the stupor and it dawns on him how he errs in his ways.
Pip knows that he owes his status in life to a person whose values are questionable, who is considered lower than his friend Joe. This irony is not lost on Pip who begins to acknowledge his faults and his errors. His fantasy world is truly a fantasy after all. His dreams cost him his principles. Magwitch’s revelation only serves to magnify and confirm that painful truth.
Pip learns responsibility. After all, every decision, every act has consequences. Wealth does not only entails freedom but more responsibilities. He must make his choices and learn to live with them. The way his friends did. When Jaggers chooses an emotionless life and accepts the consequent alienation. Or, when Joe stays with his wife to show her love even though she abuses him. Wemmick also chooses to keep his job even if it drives him crazy and Magwitch pursues his dear boy by accepting death. Pip learns from all of them that in life we make choices and live with the consequences.
After many years, Pip who changes from his erring ways sees his old love Estella. He falls in love with her again even though she says that she does not have any feelings for him. They fall in love and he is back to his old self – the gentle, kind, humble person that he used to be. Love changes him for the better.