Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

1324 WordsMay 17, 20176 Pages
In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens rejects conventional Victorian class stratification, using Pip 's Bildungsroman to demonstrate that social mobility can be achieved through moral education, experience and personal development, rather than the simple acquisition of wealth. The compassion Pip learns from Joe leads him to assist Magwitch, which ultimately results in Pip becoming a gentleman. The secondary characters in Pip’s Bildungsroman help him to find a place within society where he can finally feel happy and fulfilled. Although Pip receives wealth from Magwitch, Dickens demonstrates that his success in migrating from the poorer working class to the newly developed middle class is actually the result of his more educated view of the…show more content…
It is “Pip’s compassion in choosing to help Magwitch, despite fear of the consequences, [that] affects Magwitch and is one of the reasons he becomes a mentor to Pip later in the novel” (Braun, 50). Thus, the consequences for helping a criminal involve being reduced to the same status as the criminal. Pip risks status to gain status. For this reason, it becomes Magwitch’s ambition to give Pip the life of a gentleman. Pip shows kindness to a convict – someone who is completely severed from society (and thereby Victorian morality) – and yet Pip is rewarded when Magwitch later returns the favour. Again, the significance is that this criminal, who is supposed to have no morals at all, is influenced by compassion and thereby chooses to act morally. The supporting characters continue to shape and alter Pip’s identity, helping gain the self – knowledge of how he fits in society by moving from a poor working class boy, to a gentleman of fortune, and then finally, a righteous working man in the middle class. The ‘virtuous’ characters such as Joe and Biddy, Magwitch and also Herbert, who support Pip’s search for self-identity, help him realise that his happiness is not tied to his social class. Hirsch suggests that in a Bildungsroman “educators serve as mediators and interpreters between the two confronting forces of self and society; companions serve as reflectors on the protagonist,

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