As Great Expectations unfolds, Pip goes through a series of dramatic changes. He inevitably finds himself through his interactions with the other characters. Pip's coming of age shows how, no matter what happens to a person in their life, a person can not change whom they are inside. The other theme is Pip's quest for Estella's love and what he is willing to do to gain it. The story is never about the love itself. We can see this because throughout the story, Estella is only present in Pip's heart and thoughts. The actual interaction between the characters Dickens keeps at a minimum. Pip's maturation is a circular path since he matures but is still the same person within.
"My fathers family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Phillip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip."ÃÂ
This shows how simplistic he is at the beginning of the novel. The opening line sets the stage for his maturation, with the first step as a poor simplistic child living with his sister.
Pip is comfortable with who he is and where he is from at the opening of the book. After his encounter with the escaped convict in the marshes he is shaken but comforted by the safety he knows that will be provided for him at home. This is comforting but Pip is still upset, not knowing who the convict is or what may happen between the two. He also feels he has betrayed his sister and Joe for stealing from them. As time passes these events become less important until a later meeting between Pip and the convict. His first attempt to change himself stems from his first encounter with Estella and Miss Havisham. From this first meeting Pip feels inadequate and feels the need to change, because of his attraction to Estella. The change is gradual and not noticeable at first. He begins by learning to read and write this does not seem important that he is learning to read and write but he begins separating himself from his family. As time went by and he spent more time at the Satis House with Estella and Miss Havisham he pulled further and further away from his Sister and Joe. In doing this he also pulled away from who he was. He was attempting to change his social status through denial and education. The best example of his denial of his origin was when Joe came to visit him in London. Pip treats Joe coldly not wishing people to know that he knows Joe. Pip would like to tell himself that he did not come from a poor family and he wishes that Joe would not embarrass him. He is embarrassed by Joe believing that others will have a lowered opinion of him because of his acquaintance with a "poor man."ÃÂ The death of Pip's sister was more upsetting to him than he had thought it would be. When he returns home for the funeral he attempts to rebuild relations with Joe and Biddy. His previous actions, snobbish treatment of Joe and in-frequent visits, make Biddy skeptical when he pledges to visit home more often. This is the point at which Pip realizes his downfall that he has been a terrible friend. He has given up his friends to chase a vacant dream, that he is destined to marry Estella. He too experiences what it is like to be ignored, and learns how Joe and Biddy must have felt.
Pip accompanies Estella wherever she goes and watches her treat her other suitors cruelly, yet he is ignored himself, merely tagging along with her. This scene is significant in Pip's life because if signifies his love for Estella and he will do anything to be with her but he receives no love in return.
At this point Pip is more confused than ever before. He is lost as what to do about his desires for Estella, he can not suppress them while she shows no emotion in return to Pip. He is filled with remorse for the way he has treated Biddy and Joe, and has created a terrible situation for himself. He has pulled himself away from the life he once knew and loved, and is terrified with his new more extravagant life in which he has chosen to chase Estella. His ultimate conflict however is that he gave up his friends and family, with the belief, and deception on the part of Miss Havisham, that he is destined to be joined with Estella. Yet he is not able to gain her love. The hurting that Pip has caused and is continually causing those close to him always seems to come back at him.
Pip does display a great feat of kindness when he uses his income to buy Herbert's partnership into the merchant business. This would portray a change in Pip that is certainly unexpected but shows hope for him. Pip is no longer making selfish decisions and helps Herbert in the same manner that Abel is helping him. Herbert has been a good friend to Pip and has treated him as well as anyone. This is perhaps the most obvious indication that he is beginning to change.
The last meeting between Pip and Miss Havisham is another example of Pip reverting back to his original character. He once again travels to the Satis House. Upon his arrival Miss Havisham is so overcome with grief for having caused Estella to break his heart, she clings to his feet. Pip is acts like his original kindhearted self and treats her with absolute kindness despite the heartache she has caused him. At the point that Pip saves Miss Havisham from burning, he foreshadows him saving his own life. He must save himself from hurting the ones he loves by chasing a dream.
Pip's greatest downfall is his attempt to be someone other than himself believing that will please him. In his attempt to make Estella love him he does not recognize Biddy perhaps in the way that he should. Biddy was not consumed with breaking men's hearts like Estella; she was a kind young woman who liked Pip. Through no fault except his own, Pip loses Biddy to Joe. Though he does achieve his goal in the end this is not to say that he, Pip, does not regret having previously put distance between himself, Joe, and Biddy.
"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, and as I may say, one man's a blacksmith, one's a whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith. Divisions among such must come, and must be met as they come."ÃÂ The purpose for this statement by Joe was intended to show that no matter how much you love someone sometimes you still have to say goodbye. Pip's parting of Joe was significant because Pip lost his father and mother at an extremely young age and then loses his sister when he is twenty. The only family he has left is Joe, and Biddy who has become family, will no longer be part of his life.
Pip's final test of character and his final stage in completing the circle is helping Abel escape. Although Abel is a criminal Pip is driven to help him once again. This time Pip acts out of kindness instead of boyish fear. He feels that since Abel was his secret benefactor for his education, he should return the favor and help a friend in need. Pip will stop at nothing to help Abel, he uses every resource he has and nearly gets himself killed in the process. This does not stop him however and nearly succeeds in helping him escape. Pip certainly feels terrible when Abel is captured by the police but knows what he tried to do for the criminal was truly noble. Pip completes the circle with his deed in helping Abel.
"I took her hand in mine and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw the shadow of no parting from her."ÃÂ Pip's statement shows that he finally has clarity in his thoughts, and that he has finally reached his goal despite everything he has been through. . It shows that possessions and wealth do not change who people are inside, and that finding one's self can be a long tedious process until finally the mists rise and everything becomes clear.
Pip completes a full circle, beginning and ending as the same person. Pip is acted upon by his surroundings and those he has come in contact with through his life. He begins as a humble child comfortable with who he is and where he is from. He is overwhelmed by the desire of Estella and does everything in his power to have her. The pursuit of his dream however drives distance between him and his family, Joe and Biddy. Then gradually realizes that he has acted nothing but selfishly and progresses back to his original self. By helping friends like Herbert and Abel he is able to become himself again. In the process of completing his life circle, his dream also comes true, and he ends up with Estella.