Tag Archives: great expectations

Experiences Help Shape Our Identities

In Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, I found paragraph 26 to be the most interesting. Here Wilde writes about how people had advised him to forget his past when he entered prison and is now being advised to forget prison when he is released. Wilde describes how if he did this it would be disgraceful as he would be forgetting all of the different experiences that had made him who he had become. He says, “To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul” (Par. 26).

I thought this could be related to Pip’s experiences in Great Expectations as he tried to live up to his expectations in becoming a gentleman, but retrospectively admits that it did not go as he had intended. Although nobody directly told him to forget his past and where he came from young Pip felt as though he had to because he saw his life there with Joe at the forge as an embarrassment after being told by Estella that he was coarse and common. Narrator Pip admits that this was wrong and he is ashamed of the way in which he treated the people who mattered most to him in life.

Through Pip retrospectively narrating his life from childhood to present, it is demonstrated how Pip is trying not to forget all of the experiences that made him who he is now. Throughout the narration as exemplified above, narrator Pip indicates where he may have gone wrong in life and is demonstrating that he has learned from these experiences. Your experiences make you who you are whether they are good or bad. It is up to you to learn from them and better yourself as a result.

Pip’s Happiness As A Gentleman

Pip’s journey toward becoming a gentleman is starting to remind me of John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography about happiness.

In paragraph 2 Mill talks about how he had set his whole life and happiness around a distant idea, but suddenly one day he realized that it wouldn’t bring him great happiness because he wasn’t happy in the present. He asked himself, “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?” He then describes his reaction to this by saying, “And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, “No!” At this my heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have been found in the continual pursuit of this end”.

I’m starting to see this in Pip’s character as he is reflecting on his past. Pip has constructed his life around the idea of becoming a gentleman and marrying Estella, making it seem as though that will bring him great happiness in life and it’s the end goal for him, but as he is slowly realizing, he’s missing out on many things in life during this process and we as readers really start to see this turn when he finds out that it was not Miss Havisham who was his benefactor, but the convict, Magwitch.

When he tells Estella that he loves her to find out that she is marrying Drummle is a pivotal point for Pip as marrying her was in Pip’s end plan for the future/happiness. Estella tells him that he’ll forget him in a week and Pip replies by saying, “Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself” showing that he built his life around her.

Pip is realizing that he isn’t getting any happiness/gratification out of the present. He has realized how terrible he has treated people who truly care about him like Joe and Biddy and he even admits to Miss Havisham that he wished he had never left the village he came from.

It’s also interesting with drawing comparisons between Mill and Pip in that they are both writing/narrating reflectively of their transformations so it makes me wonder how Pip’s story will end. Will he return back to Joe and Biddy?

Miss Havisham and Heathcliff

Now that we know a little bit more about Miss Havisham and her motives, I’m noticing how similar she is to Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights in terms of motives, which for both of them is revenge.

They are both caught in the past. Miss Havisham stopped all her clocks, still has her wedding dress and cake, and hasn’t left Satis House since she was left by her fiance. Heathcliff is still in the past because he’s so caught up in what could have been with Catherine. He doesn’t move on from her, he never really makes any friends and is pretty much alone at Wuthering Heights as a result similarly to Miss Havisham.

The two of them also both use children as a means to get their revenge. Miss Havisham adopts Estella to seek revenge on men as Pip is informed in Chapter 22. We see this through how she treats Pip when he comes to play by her asking if he finds Estella pretty and whispering to Estella to “Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!”. Meanwhile Heathcliff treats Hareton the way that Hindley treated him- uneducated and as a servant. He also then brings his son, Linton, to Wuthering Heights as a way to inherit Edgar Linton’s estate through his marriage to Cathy.

I’m interested in seeing how Miss Havisham’s plot line ends in comparison to Heathcliff’s.

Orphans During the Victorian Age

Upon reading Great Expectations, Pip’s character stood out to me because he reminded me of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Both Pip and Heathcliff were orphaned as young children, which caused them to face more adversity while growing up. Even though their situations were different, both characters demonstrated how common it was for children to be orphans during the Victorian Age.

In chapter one of Great Expectations, Pip mentions that he never got the chance to meet his parents and his “first fancies regarding what they were like were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.” As a child, it must have been difficult for him to grow up without knowing much of anything about his parents. Luckily, his sister took him under her wing and raised him. However, society likely misconstructed his situation and assumed that his parents abandoned him as a child.

Similarly, Heathcliff was orphaned as a child too. However, his situation was different because he had no family to live with. Therefore, he had to live on the streets of Liverpool all by himself. The master in the novel “picked it up and inquired for its owner.” As soon as he figured out that Heathcliff had no home, the master took him back to his home where he raised him from that day forward. There were many orphaned children in Europe, so Heathcliff was lucky to have been given a home.