‘Great Expectations’ is a book about the story of a boy going from being a young working class child, to becoming a gentleman.
The story is set in the 19th century when there was a huge gap between rich and poor in society.Pip is a poor working class boy, taken in by his mothers sister when both his parents died, he lives with his aunt and her husband Joe, Joe is the local black smith, and Pip has dreamed of becoming his apprentice. They live on the dank damp marshes of Kent. He is uneducated but one of Joe’s friends is teaching him how to write.
Miss Havisham is an old decrepit woman who was jilted 15 years earlier; she is very rich and lives in a large house, named Satis house. She has taken in a young girl named Estella. The house she lives in is dark and neglected; because on the time she was jilted, she stopped all of the clocks, barred and covered up the windows, and let time just pass her by. She has become lonely in the house and has invited Pip to come and visit her.
When Pip arrives at Satis house for the first time in the company of Mr Pumblechook, he is confronted by the appearance of the desolate house. Dickens describes the house to be ‘dismal’, ‘of old brick’ with ‘a great many iron bars to it’, ‘there was a courtyard in the front, and that was barred’ the word barred is reused many times throughout the description of the house. This gives a sense of a prison which in a way it is to Miss Havisham as she never leaves the house. The garden and the courtyard are both neglected and desolate, ‘a most miserable corner of the neglected garden’, the garden is put across as not empty but rough.
‘A rank ruin of cabbage stalks’. This adds to the feeling of neglect and darkness that surrounds the house.Pip’s first encounter with Estella is when she opens the gate, instantly on meeting her; he notices that she is well spoken, and enforcing in a superior way. ”ah’ said the girl ‘but you see she don’t.
‘ she said it so finally’. When Estella is explaining the true meaning of ‘Satis’ she states that Satis house means enough house, this is ironic because there are only two people that use the house. And from the description, it is an extremely large house.When he enters the house, they do not use the main door, because it is chained closed, which adds to the feeling of a prison, instead they used a side passage.
Once inside Dickens repeats the fact that it is dark this is emphasised by the fact that Estella has to use a candle to navigate her way through the passages and up the staircase. Once out side Miss Havishams room Estella orders Pip to go in. In fright Pip knocked at the door, he was feeling anxious and nervous because he didn’t know what to expect.On entering the room he finds a dark room of which the light has been shut away.
Instead it is lighted by candles. He then notices a ‘fine lady’s dressing-table’, but instead of a fine lady, he describes Miss Havisham as ‘the strangest lady I have ever seen’, this instantly makes Pip feel intimated and nervous. Firstly a woman sitting in a dark candle lit room seemed weird enough, but he then notices that she is wearing a wedding dress. She is dressed in fine materials ‘satin, and lace and silks’ with an array of jewels and white garments, which are no longer white, and are more ‘faded and yellow’.
Her wedding dress was in bad condition, and she was not quite dressed, ‘with one shoe on the table’. She is also described as ‘some ghastly waxwork at the fair…
a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress… waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes’ this all gives a very intimidating and ghostly image.
Miss Havisham treats Pip as if he is inferior to him; she refers to him as Pip, rather than master Pip. This reflects social class. He is also made to do things e.g.
play or work, he doesn’t have a choice. Although he isn’t at Miss Havisham’s out of choice, he is treated much kinder by Miss Havisham that his own ‘mother’. She has great satisfaction in the idea of Estella breaking his heart.Estella treats Pip very poorly; she often insults him and tells him ‘I hate you’.
Pip is offended by this, but doesn’t really seem to care because he thinks she is ‘so pretty’. She calls him by the name ‘boy’ and refers to him as ‘just a working class boy’.On his second visit to Miss Havishams house, he is asked to ‘play’, after refusing the offer saying ‘I don’t think I am ma’am’ in reply to ‘are you ready to play?’. After he declines he is asked if he would work, he quickly accepts the offer.
The great significance of the date he is asked to visit Miss Havisham on is that it is her birthday, although she ‘knows nothing of the days of the week, and nothing of weeks of the year’. She can tell it is her birthday because she has some visitors.He is then sent to wait in the room across the hall, and wait for Miss Havisham to accompany him. When in the room, he is confronted by an array of senses that convey death and decay.
As he enters the room he notices that ‘the daylight is completely excluded’ this give an impression that its is a dark and gloomy room, it is explained that there are only a few ‘wintry branches of candles’ this conveys that they aren’t giving off much light and adds to the impression of death because ‘winter’ is the end of the year where everything is dying and the days are short. The impression that the room has been rejected, disowned, is brought across by words and phrases like ‘oppressive’, ‘reluctant’, and ‘had once been handsome’. This all adds to the feeling that the house has stopped ‘living’ and that the only thing affecting anything, is age decay and death. He then compares the mist hanging in the room to his own marsh mists; the mentioning of the marsh mists gives an impression of a damp and gloomy scene.
As Dickens starts to describe the main object in the room he states that ‘every discernible thing in it (the room) was covered with dust and mould’ the shows that nothing has been untouched by death, and that if you leave it long enough, it will all decay. Whilst in the room miss Havisham starts to go about how she will be laid upon the dining table ‘and when they laid me dead, in my brides dress on the brides table which shall be done, and which will be the finished curse upon him, so much better if it is done on this day (her birthday)’. She seems obsessed with thought of death.Pip is summoned to the Satis house one more time before he goes off to normal life again.
On his final visit he is asked to bring Joe with him. Miss Havisham treats Joe as if he is incapable for looking after Pip, and that he inferior to her, and that she is superior to him, and as she is educated, she know what’s best for Pip. Already Joe was nervous about mixing with an upper-class person, but as Miss Havisham is so physically intimidating he is overwhelmed with fear and nerves. Dickens shows that the lower working class people are looked down on by using phrases such as ‘she glanced at him as if she understood what he really was.
‘Dickens describes Joe ‘as if he were absolutely out of his mind with the wonder awakening in him by her strange figure.’ I think this is a good comment to show how intimidating Miss Havisham actually is, Pip cannot put him self in Joe’s shoes as he has already become comfortable around her and Estella.Because Joe is trying to fit in with upper-class people, he has become a ‘different person’. Because he is trying to sound educated and is so nervous and un-expecting, he gets confused and doesn’t really make much sense.
Pip feels sorry for Joe because he doesn’t understand what he should be doing to fit in with the upper-class. ‘dear old Joe, looking so unlike himself and so like some extraordinary bird, standing as he did, speechless, with his tuft of feathers(metaphor for his hair) and his mouth open as if he wanted a worm.’After the incident Joe is so dazzled and confused he walks up another set of stairs, instead of down the right one.Dickens is successful in creating the scene of characters because he uses very vivid images that aptly describe the most delicate points of a character and scene.
He shows the differences between social classes very well by using dialect. This quickly shows the education differences and the way each character has been brought up. He also shows how the poor, working class people in 19th century were treated as inferior, he does this through the dialogue used towards Pip and Joe, which is often insulting and degrading. The poor are looked down on by the higher class.
This creates a large social and financial gap between two types of people.