The Concept of Gentleman in Great Expectations

Essay by svetliUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, May 2004

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Having read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, several questions proposed themselves to me, one of them being: What can be considered the concept of a gentleman according to Dickens? What first came to mind was to compare it to the gentleman concept in Pride and Prejudice where we clearly have a true gentleman, without doubt - Mr. Darcy. In Great Expectations, however, it was not that clear at all. What I was aware of, at that time, was that, throughout the novel, the word gentleman was mentioned frequently and that several characters, including Pip of course, were anxious to be recognized as one. The information that I lacked, however was what was needed to turn a man into a gentleman. In search for this information I first returned to my original source - the book itself. On one occasion Magwitch says to Pip:

"They shall be yourn, dear boy, if money can buy'em.

Not that a gentleman like you, so well setup as you can't win'em off of his own game; but money shall back you!"

(Page 295, Great Expectations)

From this I concluded that it was money, nevertheless, I wasn't satisfied with the answer that money was the only thing that set them apart. Hence, I decided to look for some answers on the internet. Having opened a number of links, I finally found the information I was looking for. I came across two links - Gentleman and Newman's definition of a gentleman.

What comforted me quite a bit was a sentence from the introduction which stated that the Victorians themselves were not certain what a gentleman was, nor what his characteristics were. Then it wasn't surprising that I could not provide the answer, I thought. Next, I found information on Victorian gentlemen, who were either...