In Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Pip goes through an initiation consisting of a series of ordeals that force him to mature or suffer the consequences. As Pip experiences the different standards of living, his expectations increase.
Pip’s inclination to act like a gentleman causes him to spend prodigiously, forget the value of true friendship, and become far too introverted than is healthful. Because of his newfound fortunes, Pip acquires a sense of entitlement and a habit of munificent spending that rivals that of the “Finches of the Grove”(273).
Attempting to emulate the actions of a true gentleman, Pip is snobbish to Joe when Joe visits, not because Pip does not love him, but because Pip feels that he must behave properly. Pip’s lavish lifestyle causes him to ignore all the good ways that he could utilize his money and instead, focuses on his appearance’s acceptance in the community of young gentlemen.
Because of all his sins, Pip’s consequences allow him to realize his wrongdoings and cause him to adapt himself in fiscal matters, the value of friendship, and his evolution from being selfish to selfless.
As Pip comes into his expectations, he is blessed with more money than he knows what to do with. To a boy from a poor family who used to think two pounds a “fat sweltering”(78) sum of money, the quarterly paychecks that Pip receives seem to be an endless supply of money, causing him to spend munificently.
Attempting to act like what he believes to be a gentleman, Pip begins to spend without restraint as a member of the “Finches of the Grove.” (273) To fit in with snobbish rich boys like the Finches, Pip hires a servant “the Avenger,”(275) who has “little to do” (218) but needs a “great deal to eat,” (218) for Pip retains him only because the other Finches have servants. That Pip clearly only thinks of money as a way to raise his status in the eyes of others is evident with his partaking in the Finches’ tradition of dining expensively every fortnight and then causing “six waiters to get drunk.” (273)
Pip soon understands that even though he has every worldly possession he could have wanted, he is still not happy. Pip realizes that on the outside, there is a “gay fiction”(274) that the rich are always enjoying themselves but finds out the “skeletal truth that we never did.”(274) As Pip matures, he realizes that he has done absolutely nothing with his money, so he shows his new understanding of the good uses of money with his buying a partnership for Herbert, “the only good thing”(416) that he has done.
As time goes on, Pip shows his maturity more and more often, beginning with figuring out his debt, but Pip makes a mistake because of his leaving “a margin,”(277) causing him to miscalculate and, in turn, to remain in debt. This response to adversity shows how Pip has matured because of his concern with money and also that he has room to grow in realizing his mistakes. That Pip continues to grow in his understanding of fiscal matters is evident after Magwitch reveals himself as Pip’s benefactor. Pip cannot bring himself to take this man’s money, forcing Pip to live on a low budget.
As Pip grows closer to Magwitch, he eventually does not care about acting like a gentleman or spending prodigiously, but now spends all his resources on getting Magwitch to safety. Pip even forgoes many opportunities to make himself the heir to Magwitch’s fortune, a gesture showing how Pip cares more about getting Magwitch to safety than securing the “portable property.”(372) As Pip goes through initiation, he learns that money and possessions are not as valuable as he has been led to believe.
While Pip learns to properly handle money, he will learn the importance of true friendship as well as being able to recognize fake friends. When Pip is young and desperate for friendship, he finds it in only Joe because “the dear fellow let me (Pip) love him”(41). Before Pip comes into his expectations, he values his friendship with Joe so much that he is riddled with guilt when he steals Joe’s file, fearing that he would lose Joe’s friendship.
Once Pip comes into his expectations, he learns that people who have previously acted asinine to him may attempt to gain his favor. These people include Pumblechook, who was continually asking “May I?”(156) to shake Pip’s hand, treating Pip well in the hope of acquiring “More Capital”(155) from Pip later, but the “servile”(154) manner which Pumblechook adopts causes Pip’s thinking that he was “much mistaken in him(Pumblechook)” (155). Mr. Trabb is also another such gold-digger who would chase Pip out of his store until Pip came into his expectations, under which circumstances, he welcomes Pip into his store.
Pip does gain many friends who are only there for his money like Pumblechook, but disappear as quickly as they come when he loses his wealth. However, Pip also gains a few true friends, such as Herbert. With Herbert, Pip learns the true value of friendship. When Pip joins the “Finches of the Grove”(273), he only truly becomes aware of his exorbitant spending habits because of how they “corrupted the simplicity of his(Herbert’s) life”(272). Pip becomes aware of how much he truly needs Herbert’s friendship when Herbert is gone. Herbert’s return causes Pip’s having “never felt before, so blessedly, what it is to have a friend”(341).
Pip’s near-death experience causes him to realize the value of friendship in regret and in thanksgiving. Pip’s deepest regrets are how much he wronged Joe and Biddy, regretting how they “would never know how sorry I (Pip) was” (425). The value of friendship is life, at least to Pip, for he realizes that he wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for Herbert’s saving him from Orlick. Pip cherishes Herbert’s friendship but realizes that he should have done the same with Joe’s.
When Pip becomes bankrupt, he realizes how many gold-digging friends he had. When Pip, being bankrupt, meets Pumblechook, he is astonished at the “wonderful difference” (475) between the clemency way he is treated now, compared to the servile manner that Pumblechook adopted when he had just received his expectations. Pip clearly understands the value of friendship when he is at his lowest, and all have left him except Joe, who is still at Pip’s side, still believing them to be “Ever the best of friends”(468).
Pip is so touched by Joe’s continued support, despite Pip’s snobbish treatment of him, that he realizes how friendship is more important than wealth or being a gentleman.
As Pip learns to care more about his friends, he goes from being a selfish kid to a selfless man. Pip’s selfishness is clearly evident when he asks Biddy to teach Joe to write because he believes that Joe is “backwards in some things”(148).
He does not make the request for Joe’s benefit, but merely so that he would not be embarrassed by Joe in “a high sphere” (149). By the end of his expectations, Pip’s watching Joe write causes him to “cry again with pleasure” (464), a reaction showing how much he now cares for Joe.
As Pip first comes into his expectations, he spends all of his money on self-centered luxuries to impress the other young rich gentlemen. Pip’s realization that he has wasted all his money on himself prompts him into doing something good for someone else, specifically Herbert, especially since his lavish habits had led Herbert “into that expenses he could not afford”(272).
That Pip would even think of someone else shows how far he has come since he first received his expectations, from only thinking about himself to considering others. Pip’s selflessness is obvious when he cries “in good earnest”(299) because his “expectations had done some good to somebody”(299), referring to his completing Herbert’s partnership with Clarriker.
Pip has clearly become a selfless person when he approaches Ms. Havisham with the ability to get much money or land for himself, but instead, he shows great selflessness by making Mrs. Havisham realize how she had “deeply wronged”(360) Matthew and Herbert Pocket and asking Mrs. Havisham to finish buying Herbert’s partnership with Clarriker. Pip’s selflessness is truly evident when he risks his life to help Magwitch flee.
That Pip would risk his life for a man that he recently met because he believes that Magwitch should not be killed is the epitome of selflessness. The old saying that with age comes experience may be true, but for Pip, it is also true that with age comes selflessness.
Through Pip’s life, he experiences a great deal of change, as a manager of money, as a friend, and as a person. He learns that money does not bring happiness but is a valuable tool if used properly. He learns that friendship is the hidden key to happiness that he had been missing. Pip also understands how selfish he has been and decides to change.
Pip learns who his fake friends are, finds surprising comrades, and altogether experiences life. Through his experiences, struggles and triumphs, Pip finally becomes a good person and a happy one.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. 1861. New York Penguin Group, 2003. Print.
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