Life Changing Expectations

November 24, 2010
“Dear Magwitch, I must tell you at last, you understand what I say?” This is the introductory line to the short speech Pip gave to Magwitch, truly showing that during the last minute of Magwitch's life, Pip's world is changed forever. He realizes that what society teaches about social class and what makes a man “important” is false and that the opposite is true. Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations shows how Pip's ideas and what he believes is turned around by his experiences.

Pip starts to gather ideas of society and social class when he first meets Estella at his first time at Mrs. Havisham's. Immediately, Pip believed she was beyond beautiful and knew she was very wealthy. However, he saw that she was also very proud and rude and treated him like a dog. “Though she called me 'boy' so often, and with a carelessness that was far from complimentary, she was about my own age.” He realized, as he was visiting Mrs. Havisham, that there's a food chain in society also known as the social class. Estella is at the top, a hawk, while he, Pip, is the very bottom, a common rat.

After his first visit with Estella and Mrs. Havisham, his eyes were opened and he saw everything in a new light. He begins to catch people, names, and parts of his life that make him common, keeping him from Estella. One of the biggest factors of his commonness, Pip found, was his brother-in-law Joe. Pip became very ashamed of Joe, blaming him for his own “low-lived, bad ways.” Pip once thought of “how common Estella would consider Joe,” for he even began to compare everything to her and her idea of society. Pip would give everything away to become a gentleman; a hawk at the top of the chain, right next to the pretty and powerful Estella.

Once Pip has lived a few years by the ideas and beliefs he's created about society, his ideas begin to be challenged. Pip truly believed that the powerful, wealthy Mrs. Havisham was his benefactor, intending to marry him to the beautiful Estella, the hawk at the top of the social class. However, one night Pip's old convict, Magwitch, comes to Pip. He risks his life and everything he has in order to admit to Pip that he, the convict, made Pip the rich gentleman he now was. Pip was in shock as the wall of what he had believed to be his future crashed down around him. “I could not have spoken one word, though it had been to save my life.” “Mrs. Havisham's intentions towards me, all a mere dream; Estella isn't for me... I only suffered in the Satis House as a convenience.” Pip can hardly process that a man “whose hands might be stained with blood” could have given him his large fortune and allowed him to prosper. Magwitch admits, “If I ain't a gentleman, nor yet ain't got no learning, I'm the owner of such.” This contradicts Pip's idea of social class. A flea, the very bottom, made a hawk, the very top.

While Pip is still trying to digest this recent news, he hits yet another challenge to his ideas. As Magwitch tells Pip his story, Pip realizes that Estella is Magwitch's daughter. Talking to Mrs. Havisham, Mr. Jaggers, and Herbert only confirmed this new finding. “Why should I pause to ask how much of my shrinking from Provis might be traced to Estella” Poor Pip is in such a state of confusion as another of his walls come crashing down. “Estella in all her pride and beauty” is the beloved child of Magwitch, “the returned transport whom Pip harbored.” Estella was the one who opened Pip's eyes to her ideas and who encouraged him to take them as his own. Estella, the hawk, is the daughter of the low-life criminal, the lowest of the lows.

During Magwitch's last few moments in his time on earth, Pip accepts the challenges and admits his ideas are wrong, and he needs to change. Pip says to Magwitch, “Dear Magwitch, I must tell you at last, you understand what I say? You had a child once, whom you loved and lost. She lived and found powerful friends. She is living right now. She is a lady and very beautiful. And I love her!” This is the first time he truly admits that his love, the great, powerful, and beautiful Estella is the criminal's daughter. By telling Magwitch about his daughter, Pip is starting a new chapter in his life. He's dropping the whole “social class” or “food chain of society” idea, and he is instead judging people by what is on the inside. The criminal Magwitch worked extremely hard, giving everything he had away to help Pip become a gentleman, even though he hardly knew pip. Then he died just so that he could see his creation. Magwitch is low on the social food chain, yet he is a good man. Mrs. Havisham, on the other hand, is at the top of the chain, yet she is full of pride, hate, and revenge. Therefore, she is not a nice person.

Pip's whole future and life is changed dramatically once his ideas change. Pip brings Biddy and Joe back into his life after ignoring them for years. “I hope I am a little worthier of you than I was – not much, but a little.” He admits how selfish and ungrateful he had been and begs Biddy and Joe to forgive him in their hearts. Pip gave up his property and didn’t bother to fight for it. Instead, he went to live and work with Herbert. He “works pretty hard for a sufficient living, and therefore-yes, he does well!” Pip finds more honor in being an honest, hardworking man than being rich by luck. The Pip before wouldn't have even though of his old friends Joe and Biddy, let alone visit them. HE would have lived an easy life as a gentleman, a hawk at the top of the social class. However, this new, changed Pip begged his friends for forgiveness, writes to them, and works hard for a living.
Pip's first ideas and beliefs were set in place by society and those he looked up to, especially the beautiful Estella whom Pip loved. He lived by these ideas until they were challenged by the return of his convict Magwitch. He finally has to reevaluate his ideas, and change what he lives by when the barrier is broken down as Magwitch dies. His whole life is changed for the better once he does so. Pip's life experiences changed his ideas, believes, and his standards of life.





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