Great Expectations

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade October 2001

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Learning Life's Lessons Charles Dickens' last novel, Great Expectations, told a story about growing up and learning from your mistakes. From the beginning, a poor boy, Pip, was finding himself in different predicaments. One was when he helped a convict live through his escape from imprisonment. Pip began to inherit money from an unknown benefactor. He thought his inheritance was from an old, rich and wretched woman, Miss Havisham, and that his "great expectations" were to wed her adopted daughter, his love, Estella. Pip left his family and loved ones to learn and to live the life of a gentleman. Pip's understanding of human compassion changed throughout the story, from growing up with love and sensitivity, to replacing morals with money and status, and finally learning that compassion will outlast wealth.

Pip's brother in law, Joe, taught Pip the importance of love and honesty. Joe measured a man by his morals and by his personal values.

Mrs. Joe Gargery treated Joe poorly, but he stood by her and believed she was a good woman, and thus devoted himself to her. Joe was uneducated, yet eager to learn. He taught Pip the importance of honesty and trust. In one part of Stage One, Pip began working for Miss Havisham, at her Satis house. When he arrived back home, he was asked questions about his not so interesting day. He told a story with elaborate details to please his sister and the wealthy Mr. Pumblechook. Pip was overwhelmed with guilt, and learned a valuable lesson from Joe when he admitted his tales. Joe told him, "...lies is lies. Howsever they come, they didn't ought to come...Don't tell me no more of 'em, Pip. That ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap (695)." Pip was ashamed of what he did and learned a valuable lesson. Despite the joy Joe had in his life, Pip did not want a life like his. Miss Havisham's adopted daughter, Estella, had told him he was only "course and common." In order to please this young girl whom he loved, he would alter all the values he had been taught.

After spending months with Miss Havisham, Pip fell head over heels for Estella. Eventually, he began with Joe his apprenticeship as a blacksmith. One day, a lawyer, who Pip had seen once before at the Satis house, came to speak to Pip. He told Pip that he was to inherit enough money from an unknown benefactor, in order to live up to his "great expectations." Pip left his home and family to live the life of a gentleman. He adapted to his new lifestyle, and became ashamed of what he was. In one passage, Joe wanted to come and visit Pip, so Biddy wrote a letter for Joe, asking Pip when would be a good time to arrive. Joe was very excited although Pip felt differently. He thought, "I looked forward to Joe's coming. Not with pleasure...no with considerable disturbance and some mortification. If I could have kept him away buy paying money, I certainly would have paid money (745)." Once Pip began to inherit large sums of money, he became so wrapped up in his status that he forgot what was really important to him.

Pip eventually learned that his anonymous benefactor was none other then Magwich, the convict he helped to save when he was a child. When Pip realized that his "great expectations" were not to win over Estella, he began to regret all that he gave up. After Magwich's death, Pip became very sick and overwhelmed with debt. Joe came to visit him in this time of despair. He helped nurse Pip back to health, and treated him as he did when Pip was a young boy. When he had recovered, Joe left, paying Pip's debts with nothing asked in return. Pip was filled with remorse, and returned to Joe and Biddy, who had just been wed, to thank them for their unconditional love. He promised to pay them back when he was able, and begged them not to remember him for his mistakes, but instead to remember him as the Pip they used to know. He asked for their forgiveness in the following passage: "Dear Joe, I hope you have children to love....Don't tell him, Joe, that I was thankless; don't tell him Biddy, that I was ungenerous and unjust; just tell him that I honored you both, because you were both so good and true, and that as your child, I said it would be natural to him to grow up a much better man than I did (827)." When times were tough for Pip and he no longer was a rich man, he learned that the people who cared the most always stayed true to him.

Pip's understanding of human compassion fluctuated throughout Great Expectations. Pip constantly struggled between right and wrong. The influence of money and the power of greed caused Pip to lose sight of what was truly important. It was not until he experienced the downfalls of wealth, that he rethought his priorities. Joe remained a faithful best friend to Pip, and taught Pip that there was more to life than could be bought. Although it took mistakes and misfortune for Pip to recognize the significance of compassion, he was finally able to focus on the morals and values that he was taught so early in his chi