Great Expectations by Charles DickensIn Great Expectations, Dickens wants to explore what it means to be agentleman in the rapidly changing Victorian England. He suggests thatmoney is not everything, but you need some to get yourself started inthe world. Being a gentleman means that you have to be moral, kind,courteous, hard working, financially independent and educated. Pip’sexperiences of social class, in some ways mirror those of Dickens’childhood. Dickens’ parents were middle class but moved down the classladder when they moved house, (they moved from quite a nice house intoa slightly smaller house in a slightly less desirable area, over andover again, due to financial problems, hence moving down the classladder) which happened quite often. We say that they have downwardsocial mobility.
In the early stages of Great Expectations, Pip experiences manydifferent types of social classes. These include the criminal classand the upper class, two very different classes.
Dickens explores the idea of a modern gentleman through Pip’sexperiences; at the beginning of the novel, Pip is in his own village,surrounded by people just like him and of his own class. Then, he istaken to Satis House where he meets Estella, who is of a much higherclass. Estella changes his views on becoming an apprentice to Joe inthe forge; previously Pip looks forward to it, thinking that it is thebest thing in the world, but he changes his views drastically after hemeets Estella because he believes that Estella will think that he iseven more common than she already does. Jaggers, who is a lawyerrepresenting Pip’s benefactor, comes to see him and informs him thathe will inherit a grand property later in life…
…nce again, thanks to Pip.
Pip discovers that Mr. Jaggers’ housekeeper, Molly is Estella’s motherand that Magwitch, his benefactor, is her father. Orlick, who used tobe one of Joe’s apprentices, confessed to attacking Mrs. Joe after heattempted to murder Pip. He is sent to the county jail after breakinginto Mr. Pumblechook’s house.
Magwitch has a struggle with Compeyson, the man who stood up MissHavisham on her wedding day and ruined her life, and Compeyson dies,after betraying Magwitch. After being abroad for 11 years, Piprealizes that he has neglected Joe and Biddy and apologizes to themwhen he comes back, a self-made man. He realizes that his ways mustchange and begins the long and difficult process of becoming a truegentleman. He also goes to Satis House and visits Estella. He seesthat she is no longer as black-hearted as she used to be.