Childhood in “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens’s and “The Fallen Idol” by Graham Green
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Both “Great Expectations” and “The Fallen Idol” are written by exceptional writers. The novel “Great Expectations” was set out in the Victorian period whereas the short story “The Fallen Idol” was set in the period of the 1940’s in London. “Great Expectations” was a buildings roman. This showed the process of childhood developing into adulthood and gave much greater understanding of the character involved.
Written in first person and from a child’s point of view, “Great Expectation’s” pivotal character was called ‘Pip’. Being written in first person gave the reader a much more detailed view of the emotional side of the characters, and gave the reader a chance to relate to Pip. Pip’s part in the novel was an orphan. Pip, being an orphan was very strong hearted and independent even though he lived with his sister and her husband. Being an orphan in the Victorian period was nothing new and uncommon.
Despite having a hard life, Pip was uncommonly clever and intelligent and actually used his brain. Pip was a boy with a burning desire to learn and become better so that he could provide for his only family. We are shown this when it is said “I say, Pip, old chap! Cried Joe, opening his blue eyes wide, ‘what a scholar you are! Ain’t you?’ and in reply ‘I should like to be’ said I.
Pip was warm hearted and had a lot of care for other people, even people he didn’t know and people of bad company. ‘I said, I was glad you enjoyed it.’ This may have been slightly unusual as children would have probably been possessive and greedy as they would have had no upbringing. Pip didn’t really have any enemies and got along with most people. The person who he probably got on most with had to have been Joe Gargery, his sister’s husband. Pip would have seen Joe as a father figure as he had no real father. Pip would have been presented like this to win the heart of the readers. The readers would have become a part of Pip.
Pips sister was really the man of the house as she was a lot more aggressive and argumentative than Joe. Joe was fairly laid back and let Mrs. Joe take care of things in the house. However, despite this, Joe still thought the world of Pip and his Sister and loved them with all his heart.
To prove this, we caught Joe saying ‘your sister is a fine figure of a woman aint she?’
In comparison to Pips relationship with Joe, Pip and his sister did not get along at all. Pip despised her sister as she was always giving him a hard time and constantly laid down a guilt trip, making Pip think that he owed his sister for her looking after him. Pip described her as an ugly person. Here he may have implied that she was ugly mentally and verbally, as well as physically. He also said that she was not a nice person.
‘She was not a good looking woman my sister, not a nice person’
Mrs. Joe had said ‘If it weren’t from me you’d have been to the churchyard long ago, and stayed there.’
A character very influential on Mrs. Joe would have been Mr. Pumblechook. You could describe Mrs. Joe as being two faced as she changed her personality only when he was around as it benefited her, Otherwise, normally she wouldn’t hesitate to continue being cruel to Pip and her husband. They probably interacted well with each other as they shard the same theories on children like Pip.
The constant negative and down putting attitude is almost certain to have an affect on Pip that tends to make him more rebellious, weak and structurally unsound, however this negative effect actually makes Pip’s desire to grow up stronger, bigger and better than ever.
In contrast to Pip in ‘Great Expectations’, Philip is a young, well mannered and polite individual who yearns for more, but, is brought up in a healthy family. Philip is constantly yearning to learn more and is very perceptive when it comes to the adult world. His eyes and ears work as sharp as any fox.
Philip is in a similar situation to Pip, except that he is not an orphan and has a wealthy background. Philip, like Pip, gets along fantastically with Bains. Mrs. Bains however does not see eye to eye with Philip, although she shows a lot more compassion form him. Mrs. Bains often used more violence to discipline Philip. It could be said that both Mrs. Joe and Mrs. Bains had too much pride and that their ego was too large for their personality. They could be described as control freaks. At times, Philip and Mrs. Bains share their moments where she can be caring and considerate- but this is usually and only when she wants something. We could interpret this as her being very manipulative Even though this frictions stares them in the face, they still manage trust each other: ‘We have got secrets together, haven’t we?’ Philip still trusts Bains a thousand times more than Mrs. Bains.
Philips relation to Bains is almost mirrored to Pips relationship to Joe.
Philip thinks the world of Bains and sees him as his best friend. Despite their age difference, the treat each other equally. It could be said they have a mutual respect for each other. Even though secrets were kept, Bains tried to encourage Philip not to keep secrets as in the end they always resulted in tragedy and pain. He tried to teach Philip that secrets were wrong. After Philip had realised that secrets were wrong, he no longer thought the world of Bains as he knew he was keeping secrets. He uncovered the real Bains.
Philip shows his lack of resilience to the adult bully. Mrs. Baines acted in a threatening manor towards Philip. This scared him into revealing the truth. Philip learnt hat the truth always comes out. ‘Fear held him as any nightmare’. Philip knew that Mrs. Bains would not hesitate to use her hand if she really wanted the truth in en so he just gave in. The fear factor was stronger than Philip.
Philip and Pip both came from very different backrounds and had different roles in the family. Ultimately they both soon realised that they could not cope nor compete with the adult word.
The Victorian period’s children faced many hardships such as a living as an orphan. Most children would have lived rough on the streets, lived in orphanages or work have worked hard labour in factories. In these days many children died at a very young age and never got the chance to live a childhood. Pip was lucky that his only remaining family was prepared to care form him. Maybe the book tried to convince us that pip was rather lucky than unfortunate in ‘Great Expectations’?
In contrast, the children on the 1940 lived a much better childhood. They may not all have been wealthy but they certain were better looked after and had more a childhood. Children’s life expectancy rose dramatically and generally lived better and bigger lives with fewer hardships. Although Philip never saw his parents much because they were out working in order to pay for his well being, he spent most of time with Mr. and Mrs. Bains.
Philip managed to become involved in the business of keeping secrets at a young age. He knew it was wrong but e probably felt entrapped. When Mrs. Baines died Philip probably did not realise the consequences of secrets and just made things worse for Baines. But he was hardly to blame was he?
In conclusion of the short story ‘The Fallen idol’ and the novel ‘Great Expectations’, and the task of portraying childhoods in the two books, we realise that despite their differences, Pip and Philip were just two young people trapped in the adult world in some way. They were left confuses and uncertain of what they were to do. In ways it encourage them to move forward and not always trust everyone. They both saw that the answers did not always lie in adults; even they got it wrong sometimes, no matter who they were.