The Relationship Between Social Ranking and Love

While reading Great Expectations, Pip’s concern with his social standing stood out to me because he decided that he could not love Estella and have a high social ranking. In chapter 43, Pip asks himself “why should I loiter on my road, to compare the state of mind in which I had tried to rid myself of the stain of the prison before meeting her at the coach-office, with the state of mind in which I now reflected on the abyss between Estella in her pride and beauty, and the returned transport whom I harbored?” It seems as though Pip feels like he was a different person when he first met Estella. After his social standing changed, it’s as if he felt like he couldn’t love Estella the way he did when they first met. In my opinion, he felt the need to permanently leave Estella to protect her from the harsh reality of people’s great expectations. The idea of social standing and relationships being unable to coexist instantly reminded me of Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship in Wuthering Heights.

In Wuthering Heights, Catherine feels a deep connection to Heathcliff, but her social standing initially causes her to feel like she cannot be with him. She blatantly states that “it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff.” (chapter 9) Her ranking in society was so important to her that she did not want to tarnish it by marrying someone who was not equal to her. The only reason she married Edgar was that they were equals. Even though he was a kind man, Catherine did not love him the way she loved Heathcliff. Although Catherine eventually ended up with Heathcliff, it was hard for her to come to terms with risking her social ranking. It is interesting to see how many people in the Victorian Era valued society’s perception of them more than true love.

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