Sympathy Towards Pip in Great Expectations
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In Great Expectations Dickens uses different techniques to deliberately create sympathy for the character Pip in his opening exchanges with Miss Havisham and Estella. This essay will analyse and reflect on the ways in which Charles Dickens does this.
The first meeting between Pip and Miss Havisham is arranged by Mr Pumblechook (Pip’s uncle) when he hears that Miss Havisham wants a boy to go round and play. Pip being a member of the working class is obliged to go as the working class feel pressure on them to please the upper class in this case Miss Havisham. In Dickens’s time the working class were not treated fairly by the upper class but the working class was expected to please the upper classes. Dickens was born into a working class family and like many other working class children he received no schooling. Dickens wanted to make something of himself because he knew what it was like to be working class and how the upper class would treat lower classes. The first meeting between Pip and Miss Havisham is an important scene in this novel as it is used to express the interaction between the working class and upper class. Estella doesn’t call Pip by his name, instead she calls him ‘boy’ and continues to mock Pip; one example of Estella’s dislike towards Pip is when she is when she is told to play cards with him and she replies ‘With this boy? Why, he is a common labouring-boy!’, Estella’s dialogue towards Pip is typical of the upper class and as we read the novel from Pip’s point of view we empathise more with the character Pip. Pip and Estella is just one of the examples Dickens uses to show the interaction and difference between the two classes.
In the house, which Pip is sent to, lives Miss Havisham. A corpse like women who hasn’t seen the light of the day since her heart was broken by her fiancï¿½ when he ran away. Miss Havisham is also described by the setting, Pip describes the room to be a fine lady’s dressing room but in a arm chair ‘… sat the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.’ Pip sees that Miss Havisham is dressed in rich materials such as lace, satins and silks (represents upper class) that long ago where white now they were faded and yellow which tells us that she gave up in life.
During the first few words exchanged between Pip and Miss Havisham, Miss Havisham quickly shows her authority ordering him to come closer: ‘Come nearer, let me look at you. Come close.’ Miss Havisham then becomes very interrogative, probing him with questions such as: ‘Are you sullen and obstinate?’ Miss Havisham being upper class speaks down on Pip and treats him like her pet ordering him about, getting him to do things that he doesn’t really want to do (such as ‘play’); we know he doesn’t want to be there as he politely says ‘ I am very sorry for you, and very sorry I can’t play just now.’
Miss Havishams house, also knew as the Satis House, is a typical upper class house but with a twist; like Miss Havisham it has been cut of from the real world, all the window are boarded up so inside there’s not even a glimpse of daylight. Inside the house everything has been left to rot; as Pip describes it ‘.which ought to be white had been long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow.’ The description of the house and everything in it relates to its owner, Miss Havisham; rotting away with an eerie nature. We can tell what Pip thinks about the house from what he says in his desperate defence about not wanting to play; ‘…but it’s so new here, and so strange, and so fine – and melancholy–‘. Not only do these descriptions tell us what the house is like but it helps build sympathy towards Pip as he has been reluctantly sent to this strange old house to play for the enjoyment of a strange old women.
One of the other major characters in Great expectations is Estella. When Pip first sees Estella he describes her as a very pretty girl to whom he is attracted, however her instant disrespect towards Pip changes his views on her we know this from when he tells Miss Havisham his feelings towards Estella; ‘I think she is very insulting.’ . We can tell from the extract that Estella treats Miss Havisham with respect but on the other hand she continuously mocks and insults Pip; calling him ‘boy’ as if he hasn’t got a name or insulting him because of his working class background. Dickens purposefully presents Estella to be scornful towards Pip to express how typical it was of the upper class to look down on, mock and insult the working class.
Another example of the interaction between the two classes is when Pip and Miss Havisham first exchange words. Pip comes across as very shy, answering Miss Havishams questions and not asking any himself. Pip continues to be polite and shy until Miss Havisham asks him if he’s ‘sullen and obstinate’ in which he breaks out into a desperate speech to defend himself but stops before he says anything to offend Miss Havisham. It would be hard for Pip to please Miss Havisham, as she has a personal vendetta against the opposite sex. Ever since her heart was broken by her Fiancï¿½ she has wanted to take revenge out on a male, and unfortunately she as decided to take her stress, towards the opposite sex, out on Pip, therefore we would feel sorry for Pip as he is trying his best to make a good impression but is finding it quite a struggle. Dickens purposefully writes Great Expectations in first person from Pips point of view so we can understand what this poor young boy is going through therefore making us feel sorry for him.
In conclusion I think Dickens has been very successful in making the reader feel sympathetic towards Pip. Dickens achieves this by using a variety of techniques. From the way he expresses how this poor boy Pip has been unwillingly sent to an eerie rotting old house, to the different types of dialogue the two classes use and how the upper class look down upon the working class. Every event uses certain techniques and has been purposefully planned out by Charles Dickens to create sympathy towards the main character Pip.