Setting evaluation in Chapter 21: The setting of Great Expectations moves from the sprawling countryside to the large city of London. While both of these settings have their ups and downs, Pip’s “great expectations” of how London will be like, genteel and lavish, is shattered once he actually travels into the city, in which he realizes the muddy, feral, criminal side of London; he sees the execution yard when he first arrives, his lawyer works next to the prison, he has to go with Mr. Wemmick into the prison to check up on the prisoners, etc.
This excerpt, from Chapter 21, shows the inner griminess of London: “A frowzy mourning of soot and smoke attired this forlorn creation of Barnard, and it had strewn ashes on its head, and was undergoing penance and humiliation as a mere dust-hole.” This excerpt shows the dirtiness of Barnard’s Inn, which makes his previous home in the countryside seem heavenly in comparison. Places and moments like this help Pip to realize the difference between the appearance of London and how it truly is. Characterization in Chapter 57: Joe Gargery, Pip’s surrogate father, and brother-in-law are similar to most of the other characters, excluding Pip, in that he is a caricature of one characteristic. Mrs. Joe Gargery exemplifies cruelty, Miss Havisham exemplifies bitterness, Estella exemplifies aloofness, and Joe exemplifies kindness.
At the beginning of the book, Pip even compares Joe to a child. Joe’s innocent, and almost gullible demeanor is best shown in this excerpt from Chapter 57, which transcribes Joe’s note to Pip: “‘Not wishful to intrude I have departured fur you are well again dear Pip and will do better without Jo. P.S. Ever the best of friends.’ Enclosed in the letter was a receipt for the debt and costs on which I had been arrested.” Joe saved Pip’s life by nursing him back to health, pays off all of his debts, and subsequently runs from London, just so that Pip wouldn’t have to be ashamed of him. This example of indirect characterization shows Joe’s innately naive yet magnanimous demeanor towards his adopted son, as he helps Pip enormously, but doesn’t stay with him simply to make Pip feel less ashamed of his parentage. Conflict evaluation in Chapter 19: The main conflict in Great Expectations is an internal one; Pip vs.
Self. Pip’s struggle to be liked by Estella after being fundamentally changed by his meeting with her is the main driving force behind the novel. His struggles often intensify and switch sides, particularly whether he wants to embrace his past or rebuff it. He is torn between Biddy, the gentle, intelligent common girl and Estella, the standoffish, beautiful rich girl. He is torn between embracing Joe as his kind yet slow childhood friend and Herbert Pocket, his “escort” into the world of the rich.
In the end, it’s a choice between two different levels of socioeconomic status; the rich versus the poor. For Pip, who failed at being rich orphan but succeeded in being a self-made adult, his choices reflect both levels; he gets with Estella at the end of the novel and remains “ever the best of friends” with his surrogate father Joe. This excerpt, from Chapter 19, shows Pip’s inner struggles: “I fell into much the same confused division of mind between it and the better rooms to which I was going, as I had been in so often between the forge and Miss Havisham’s, and Biddy and Estella.” This quote shows the fracture between the two different sides of Pip; his youthful self, aspiring to apprentice his brother-in-law at the forge and marry childhood friend Biddy, and his changed self (after meeting Estella), aspiring to become a gentleman and marry the enchantress Estella. Though he does end up with Estella, which shows that change is a necessary element in order to achieve your goals, Pip became a true adult towards the end of the novel, atoning for his selfishness by working in Cairo for eleven years. His inner struggles about who he is has been resolved by the end of the novel. The main theme, as seen in Chapter 39: The main theme in Great Expectations is the idea of socioeconomic status and its role in one’s livelihood.
Pip was once a poor, uneducated orphan who dreams of apprenticing his surrogate father, but once he’s ordered to “play” with beautiful, aloof Estella, Pip’s entire mindset changes. He no longer wants to be with his kind brother-in-law who raised him; Pip has become ashamed of him. Now, he wants to become a gentleman and marry Estella, thinking that if he changes everything about him, Estella would learn to like him. After receiving his inheritance, which he assumes came from his previous benefactor, Miss Havisham, he soon realizes the appearance of genteel London is far different than the reality of it, alluding to how Pip received his inheritance from the convict Magwitch instead of Miss Havisham.
The way Pip moves around the socioeconomic hierarchy shows him that there is an enormous gap between appearances and reality, which lead him to repent for his selfish, patronizing actions by working in Cairo for eleven years, which help him grow into an adult and finally get with Estella at the end of the novel. His perseverance and self-improving nature helped him rise from poverty and be a self-made man, which helped him to see past the socioeconomic hierarchy within Great Expectations. This excerpt, from Chapter 39, shows the main theme of the novel: “For an hour or more, I remained too stunned to think; and it was not until I began to think, that I began fully to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces.” Previously in the novel, Pip recalled how the ship alluded to a life he couldn’t have, which as a child, was riches and monetary gains. Now that he has found about the corrupt nature of the upper class, through the ill-gotten gains of Magwitch, Pip’s metaphorical ship of riches has promptly sunk, finally opening his eyes to London’s reality.