Dicken’s Idea’s On Gentility As Shown Through His
Novel, “Great Expectations”Dickens criticized the world of his own time because it valued the status of being a gentleman over someone doing a useful job. Those who thought they were gentlemen often mocked ordinary citizens. Show how he achieved these aims through the language used and his description of the way Pip and the other characters behaved in the novel.
In his numerous literary works, Dickens strong sense of right and wrong, and his recognition of the many injustices present in Victorian Society are clearly displayed. There is no better an example of these strong set of ideals then those portrayed in his novel, Great Expectations, which tells the story of Pip, a young boy who is initially fooled into believing that material wealth is a substitute for the real moral values a gentleman should posses. However, through the many trials and tribulations he is forced to go through, he is finally able to identify what it means to be a “true gentleman”, one that has acquired true wealth and value. It is only then that he is able to see the real meaning behind Matthew Pockets wise words, that:
“No man was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was since the world began, a true gentleman in manner.” (page 175)
In Dickens novel, societys idea of a gentleman is perceived as someone of great affluence
and breeding, who did not necessarily posses the moral values and graces a true gentleman should have. After his initial visit to Satis House, Pip was infatuated by Estellas beauty, wealth, and self importance. He allowed himself to be degraded by her scornful references to his “coarse hands”, and “thick boots”, not realizing at this point that these factors are unimportant on the route to becoming a true gentleman. At that very moment, he deludes himself into believing that if he were to meet Estellas interpretations of gentlemanly conduct, that she would regard him as her equal. Unfortunately, he completely fails to recognize the true moral values present in Joe and Biddy, and is attracted instead by a fantasized version of Miss Havishams and Estellas lifestyles. He sees his visit to Satis House as the first link in the long chain of events which will lead to his eventually becoming a gentleman.
Dickens leaves the reader with no doubt that position and rank were major contributory factors as to how a person was regarded in Victorian society. He portrays this with the changed attitudes of the tradesmen towards the gentleman Pip, who no longer look out of the window whilst they are serving him. It is also amusing to witness Trabbs extravagant attempts to satisfy Pips every need, a stark contrast to the manner he treats his own boy. Another change that has taken place in Pip is his inability to perceive Pumblechook as the “Impostor” he so readily recognized him to be as a boy. What he would have once seen to be the fawnings of a “bogus humbug”, he know observes to be the “sensible, practical good hearted” conversation of a “kind fellow”. He readily accepts the endless handshaking and congratulations from his Uncle as an indication of his ever rising status in society. We see more falsity on Pumlechooks part later on in the novel, regarding his patronizing and nauseatingly forgiving nature towards a Pip who has declined in fortune.
We see also how Pips gain in affluence is an automatic guarantee in his ascension up the social ladder. He now feels embarrassed by his long time friends and confidants, Biddy and Joe, feeling they would no longer fit in to the social group he has chosen to become part of. Therefore, he comes to the conclusion that it would be in Joes best interests to refine his manners, and asks Biddy to cultivate his social airs and graces, never giving a second thought to Joes needs and wishes. He completely fails to see his rude and patronizing tone when asking Biddy to cultivate Joes manners, in order for him to be less “open to Estellas reproach”. He has become so disillusioned by his own expectations, that he seems to have lost touch with one of