The Problem Of Social Classes In Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

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Undoubtedly everyone from a lower class perspective dreams to be apart of the higher class. People even act outside of their social class to feel fulfilled in their lives. The novel that is focused on is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The life of Pip irreversibly changes after a life-changing opportunity is given to him by an anonymous benefactor. Pip lives as a lower class boy dreaming to be a gentleman, as the story processes and his dream comes true he finds that it is not what he dreamed it would be. Pip experiences a cycle similar to Jungian Theory by learning that inner worth is much more valuable than social class.

Through seeing the upper class of Miss Havisham and Estella, Pip decides to create an ego to become less of a “commoner”. While Pip is waiting on Estella to unlock the gate at Miss Havisham’s residence, he thinks of his common upbringing as a disadvantage, thereby wanting more in life. ‘I took the opportunity of being alone in the courtyard, to look at my coarse hands and my common boots.” (p. 108) This gives Pip the assumption that being “common” is not socially acceptable. He obsesses with these characteristics to create a world in which social class brings dignity in the young Pip. Pip continues his misunderstanding that creating an ego that is less of a “commoner” to a gentleman to try to recreate Joe into one as well. ”I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella’s reproach.” (p. 193) This creates a mind that there needs to be higher society around himself to bring “inner worth” to those around him. As Pip sees Miss Havisham’s estate it brings to his mind how inner worth is developed, not through contentedness but social class. ”Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque.” (p. 194) Having seen this, it gives him the reason to develop an ego to make his own life “picturesque”. These were the start of Pip’s journey of discovering inner worth has nothing to do with social class. He believes that due to him being “common” to start the next stage in the Jungian theory.

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Once Pip receives information that there is an unidentified philanthropist, he then creates a persona of a gentleman. Once seeing the lives above Pip’s class he tells Biddy that he is uncomfortable being common, before he had gotten word of his uncredited sponsor. ”’see how I am going on. Dissatisfied, and uncomfortable, and—what would it signify to me, being coarse and common, if nobody had told me so!’” (p. 228) Doing this brings a persona that he must be above his social class to be comfortable. Mr. Jaggers comes to tell Pip of his anonymous benefactor to turn him into a gentleman. ”It is considered that you must be better educated, in accordance with your altered position, and that you will be alive to the importance and necessity of at once entering on that advantage.” (p. 248) After hearing this news, Pip then officially creates a persona of a gentleman, being educated and less “common”. Before leaving his hometown, Pip feels dis-satisfactory towards the “common” folk. ”As I passed the church, I felt…a sublime compassion for the poor creatures who were destined to go there, Sunday after Sunday, all their lives through, and to lie obscurely at last among the low green mounds. I promised myself that I would do something for them one of these days, and formed a plan in outline for bestowing a dinner of roast beef and plum pudding, a pint of ale, and a gallon of condescension upon everybody in the village.” (p. 260) Pip then starts to feel above the people in his town, showing that being above their social class that he has more dignity than them. After finally creating a conscious persona of a gentleman, Pip starts to unravel that he has less happiness being a gentleman.

As Pip wears his mask of a persona, Pip’s unconscious begins to understand that being in debt and in the upper class is making him miserable. Pip starts to be confused on whether being a gentleman would bring him happiness. ”And now, because my mind was not confused enough before, I complicated its confusion fifty thousand-fold, by having states and seasons when I was clear that Biddy was immeasurably better than Estella, and that the plain honest working life to which I was born, had nothing in it to be ashamed of, but offered me sufficient means of self-respect and happiness.” (p. 235) Pip has an internal struggle of common (Biddy) and the uncommon (Estella), making him confused on self worth and social class. Pip had just been offered to be tutored by Mr. Jaggers and Mr. Pocket yet he is surprised to be displeased with this opportunity. ”as Joe and Biddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I became quite gloomy. Dissatisfied with my fortune, of course I could not be; but it is possible that I may have been, without quite knowing it, dissatisfied with myself.” (p. 256) This quote shows that deep inside the mind of Pip that he regrets taking the opportunity to become a gentleman. That his confidence is less than it was before this opportunity. When Pip sees Mrs. Pocket, he sees her as fairly useless but raised in a high social class. ”…[Mrs. Pocket] had grown up highly ornamental, but perfectly helpless and useless.” (p. 334) It shows that Pip sees that worth is less in higher social classes, making him rethink what it self-prestige and being a gentleman really means. As Pip continues to be a gentleman, he faces a wealth struggle due to his excessive spending to keep his consciousness from realizing the truth. ”As we got more and more into debt, breakfast became a hollower and hollower form, and, being on one occasion at breakfast-time threatened (by letter) with legal proceedings, ‘not unwholly unconnected,’ as my local paper might put it, ‘with jewellery,’ I went so far as to seize the Avenger by his blue collar and shake him off his feet—so that he was actually in the air, like a booted Cupid—for presuming to suppose that we wanted a roll.” (p. 488) With Pip being in copious amounts of debt, he begins to understand both consciously and unconsciously that being in a higher class does not bring satisfaction. In these arguments Pip internally begins to learn about how class does not mean satisfaction. This all comes to light when a character early in the book reappears.

While Pip’s unconscious is displeased of being in the upper class, it surfaces once his most feared character turns into “The Shadow”. This feared character turns out to be his benefactor which then forces Pip into self-reflection. This feared character was ‘The Convict’, known also as Abel Magwitch. He reappears in Pip’s life to explain to him that he was his unknowing benefactor that gave him wealth. ”As I giv’ you to understand just now, I’m famous for it. It was the money left me, and the gains of the first few year wot I sent home to Mr. Jaggers—all for you—when he first come arter you, agreeable to my letter.” (p. 572) This brings Pip’s unconscious struggles to himself, finally realizing that Miss Havisham is not his benefactor but “The convict”. Meaning he earned his gentleman ways by necessarily horrible ways. Magwitch tells Pip that he had bought him his “gentlemanliness” by being his benefactor. ”He was a convict, a few year ago, and is a ignorant common fellow now, for all he’s lucky,’ what do I say? I says to myself, ‘If I ain’t a gentleman, nor yet ain’t got no learning, I’m the owner of such. All on you owns stock and land; which on you owns a brought-up London gentleman?” (p. 572) With Pip able to realize that wealth cannot make someone a gentleman, that wealth cannot bring happiness as well. Pip is able to come to terms that by aiding Magwitch had brought his climb up the social ladder. ”I consumed the whole time in thinking how strange it was that I should be encompassed by all this taint of prison and crime; that, in my childhood out on our lonely marshes on a winter evening I should have first encountered it; that, it should have reappeared on two occasions, starting out like a stain that was faded but not gone; that, it should in this new way pervade my fortune and advancement.” (p. 468) With this fortune, it brings self-reflection to Pip that wealth does not bring blissfulness. After encountering his “Shadow”, Pip is able to move on with his life.

After Pip’s self-reflective journey, he finally consciously develops the understanding that inner worth is more important than social class. Pip’s longtime friend Herbert helps Pip with his struggles of self respect. ”Herbert received me with open arms, and I had never felt before, so blessedly, what it is to have a friend.” (p. 605) Pip is able to come to terms that Herbert had helped him. After Pip’s sickness and debt crisis, Joe is able to help him through his troubles. ”’Which dear old Pip, old chap,’ said Joe, ‘you and me was ever friends. And when you’re well enough to go out for a ride—what larks!’” (p. 827) This makes Pip realize that Joe has lots of dignity, and had forever been a dear friend. After Pip’s excessive journey, he is able to come to terms that through his suffering, he learned the importance of self-satisfaction. ”Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” (p. 865) He is able to understand the importance of happiness through his struggles. Through Pip’s life journey, he is able to move on with his life and take up a profession that brings him happiness.

Great Expectations uses the Jungian theory to explain that social class does not bring inner worth through Pip’s journey. In his journey, Charles Dickens wrote that he is born as a commoner, to then wear a persona as a gentleman. Pip realizes as a gentleman that he has less inner worth than when he was a commoner. As Pip had doubts of being a gentleman, he is only able to uncover those by the return of Abel Magwitch. He discovers that if he had not become a gentleman and had taken up a career. He would have inner worth as Joe and Biddy has. The text of the book is very important to modern day life, as people believe that wealth would bring happiness. The book goes into depth that “Money cannot buy happiness”.


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