"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens: how Pip is the portrayal of what 19th century society considered a gentleman, whereas Joe was whom Dickens believed to be the true gentleman.

Essay by Trojan24College, UndergraduateA+, April 2003

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What is a Gentleman?

What is a gentleman? It is a question that has been discussed exhaustively throughout time by men and women alike. Charles Dickens attempts to answer this question in the novel Great Expectations. In this book, he portrays two characters, Pip and Joe, as two different views of a gentleman. Pip represents 19th century society's view of a gentleman, while Joe is Dickens' depiction of what he thinks a gentleman is. The two are contrasting views, however, through my personal experiences, I believe Joe, Dickens' portrayal of what he thinks a gentleman is, truly captures the essence of what a gentleman is.

19th century society believed that a gentleman was determined by his wealth, job, and status. In Great Expectations, Pip represents this view of the gentleman. Throughout the novel, Pip looks to achieve "great expectations," and in turn become a gentleman or respected man, and thus win the respect and heart of the woman he loves, Estella.

These "great expectations" were to gain status, achieve riches, and be successful. These three things were what Pip and 19th century society believed to be important in life. However, in order to show the 19th century reader that these aspects are not what make a gentleman, Dickens sets Pip up for failure. While he does achieve these things, Pip comes to realize, after again being rejected by Estella, that a gentleman is not based solely on these characteristics. His epiphany is complete when he finally sees Joe, his brother-in-law, as the man he wants to be--a true gentleman.

Joe represents Dickens's view of a gentleman. In the 19th century, a man of Joe's poor and homely status would not have been looked fondly upon and he would definitely not be classified as a distinguished man. However, Joe accurately portrays...