Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations is a story about a boy, Philip Pirrip, who comes to a point in his life where his life changes drastically from the way it was when he was growing up. Whenever this change occurs, he does his best not to let people know about his past life where he was just a ³common² boy.

Throughout the novel, Dickens points out how people sometimes lead two lives that they want to keep separate. The change in Pip’s life is characterized in several ways. First of all, there is a physical change, when he moves to London. That just accentuates the difference between the two ³lives.² Before, he lived in a small town that was near some marshes, both of which reflect the ³common² side of his life. London is seen by Pip as a great and wonderful city which symbolizes his expectations of what is to come in his future. Another change in his life is that he is treated better by others.

Mr. Trabb, the tailor, takes exception to Pip after he hears that he has come into a fortune. He measures Pip very quickly, and gets angry at his son for not showing the same respect of Pip¹s wealth. Then, when he next sees Pumblechook, he repeatedly asks Pip if he may shake his hand, as if it is some great honor. Before the news, he hardly treated Pip any differently than any other common boy. Pip also looks to the way his new acquaintances are treated, most notably Mr. Jaggers. He is treated with a great deal of respect by everyone, and even invokes fear in some. Pip had never seen this level of respect for someone that was his direct acquaintance before, except for Miss Havisham, who he knew had great wealth.

This dual lifestyle is paralleled in Mr. Wemmick, the clerk for Mr. Jaggers. Mr. Wemmick, when at work, only thinks about his work, and doesn¹t let his personal life affect how he goes about his business. The flip side of the coin is also true, as when he goes home, he forgets about anything that happened at work, and concentrates on making his deaf father happy. The scene when he takes Pip to work shows the change that he goes through on his way to work: ³By degrees, Wemmick got dryer and harder as we went along, and his mouth tightened into a post-office again.² Just like Pip, he changes how he acts according to which role he is playing.

Whenever the two lives come together, it is hard for Pip to determine what to do about it. He seems not to want his two lives to mix, but is helpless to prevent it. Whenever Joe says he is coming to London, Pip doesn’t like the idea, but he ends up coming anyway. Also, when he finds that Orlick is working for Miss Havisham, he is apparently shocked. He remembers him working for Joe, and doesn’t think it’s right that he’s now working as Miss Havisham’s watchman. In society today, people often lead these dual lives.


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Barry Waterfield
Barry Waterfield
11 years ago

I believe that Dickens was ultimately demonstrating spiritual realization and growth in Great Expectations and he cleverly uses desire, that most seductive of all human forces to bring this about, rather as if he were a good fairy in pantomime. . He clearly shows that Pip as a child had the moral certainty and courage that qualifies a gentleman,regardless of age money status or circumstance. He shows this, not only in Pips interaction under duress with Magwich but also in his steadfast courage during the early encounters with Miss Haversham, both of which would be terrifying ordeals for any child.… Read more »