Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, is a novel about a boy named Pip who thinks he has a good life until he is exposed to people of a higher class. As a result Pip, a “common laboring boy,” develops great expectations for himself and begins on a journey to become “uncommon” in order to raise his social status. Before he leaves on this journey, Joe, Pip’s brother in law, tells him to be honest, “If you can’t get oncommon (sic) through going straight, you’ll never get to do it through going crooked. ” (70) Unfortunately, Pip does not heed the advice of Joe and takes the “crooked path.
” Pip meets many people and goes many places on his journey. His encounters with people of a higher class make him feel bitter about his place in society, and his reaction is to walk down the “crooked path,” resulting in a life of denial and deception. Pip’s encounters with people of a higher class lead him to discover that he is common. In the beginning of the novel Pip is happy and does not question his place in society. It is his encounter with a young girl at Miss Havisham’s house that leads him regret his social status. Uncle Pumblechook and Mrs.
Joe arrange for Pip to meet with Miss Havisham. While he is there he meets a young girl named Estella. She thinks Pip is just a “common laboring boy”‘ and comments, “What coarse hands you have, and what thick boots. ” (59) This is the first time Pip realizes that people see him as common. Estella’s comments are a revelation to Pip. Before he met Estella, a girl from the upper class, Pip was content with his life. He was oblivious to the fact that he was common, and accepted who he was. This epiphany in his self-image shows Pip the possibilities of life and he likes what he sees.
Pip feels that by becoming a gentleman people will regard him as high-class. Pip is again reminded of how common he is when he was travels to London to study with Mathew Pocket. Mr. Pocket has a son named Herbert. One night, Pip and Hebert decide to go out to dinner. Herbert starts talking about Miss Havisham’s life, and catches Pip licking his knife, “In London it is not the custom to put the knife in the mouth,” (195) Herbert says to Pip. This instance forces Pip to become much more aware of the little things that make someone a gentleman.
Before Pip started on this journey he thought that being a gentleman just meant that you wore nice clothes and had money. As a result of Pip taking the “crooked path” he is fixed on the exterior image of a gentleman, and does not know how to act like one. Pip’s obsession with raising his place in society leads him to attempt to make everyone around him uncommon, even if they don’t want to. Throughout the book, Pip goes to Miss Havisham’s several times, each time becoming more aware of how common he is. After one of the visits he comes home and tries to write as is the custom of those in the upper class.