Pip in Dickens' Great Expectations / A little boy lost and forlorn | Sunday Observer

Pip in Dickens' Great Expectations / A little boy lost and forlorn

The story of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the famous English author, is the story of Pip. He is the hero of the story, an orphan raised in humble surrounding in the early decades of the 19th century. The story is narrated by Pip and the reader feels that it comes from the bottom of his heart. It is candid and frank shows the roots of the facts which the narrator wanted to convey.

Pip begins his narration with an account of his parents and siblings whom he never saw in life and reveals that his only memory of them were their tombstones on the marshes. As such we gather that he is an orphan. His father's name being Pirrip and his Christian name being Phillip, his infant tongue could come out with both names only as Pip. Thus he came to be called Pip. Being parentless, Pip was brought up by his sister and brother-in-law, Mr and Mrs. Joe Gargery. Joe was the village blacksmith.

The narration begins with Pip recalling his "Vivid and broad impression of the identity of things," in that raw afternoon. It is here that he found out for the first time the nature of the churchyard with its bleakness where the tombstones of his parents and brothers stood. His identification of things stretched further when he found that the flat area beyond the churchyard was the marshes and further beyond lies the river and in the distant lies the sea. One can imagine what a gloomy atmosphere pervaded when he identified things for the first time and worst of all this encounter coincides which Magwitch's appearance.

Pip inhabited this landscape from birth and as David Trotter points out Magwitch the convict was part of this landscape. Pip was aghast by Magwitch's orders and demands. He was compelled to steal food and files which belonged to the Gargery household and was horrified by the convict's threats. Failure to supply such would have been the end of life for Pip. We sympathize with him.

This incident later plays a vital role in Pip's life in fulfilling his great expectations. What is most striking is the fact that this was a day covered with mist which caused obscurity of vision. It is symbolic of obscuring Pip's vision of himself and the distortion of values in life which inadvertently contributed towards the development of Pip's character and the plot.

Having encountered Magwitch, the convict in that raw afternoon in the churchyard beyond the marshes, gloomy as it was, Pip runs home. As Pip puts it, "I was frightened again and ran home without stopping." The question looms large. Does Pip run to a home where he finds solace? Back home Pip meets Joe in the kitchen who divulged to him that his sister, was out looking for him. Joe's words "What's worse, she's got tickler with her."

The narration reveals how desperate Pip was. His home life under his sister's dominance was undoubtedly desperate as it was a life full of restrictions, ridicule, embarrassment hurled at a boy of only seven or nine years old.

The tickler in Mrs. Joe's hand symbolizes the restrictions of movements to which Pip was subjected to. His movements were restricted and his inquiring mind which posed questions was always thwarted by Mrs. Joe's abuse. Often Mrs. Joe silenced Pip by her stinging rebukes. On Christmas Eve when Joe, Mrs. Joe and Pip were in the kitchen the sounds of firing were heard. When Joe commented that those were the firings of warnings, Pip posed the question, "What's firing?". Mrs. Joe quickly responded, "Drat that boy, what a questioner he is. Ask no questions!" Such incidents expose us to Pip's home background and the environment in which he was brought up. Pip as a little boy also had to endure embarrassment and insults hurled at him by the elders' company. On Christmas day the visitors who gathered at Joe's dwelling made it a point to take Pip as their centre of criticism.

At Christmas dinner when Mr. Wopsle said grace offering thanks to God, Mrs. Joe was quick to point a finger at Pip and these words piped out of her mouth. "Do you hear that? Be grateful." This admonition was further intensified by Mr. Pumplechook in his own degrading manner. Such was the treatment meted out to Pip by the elders and if we put Pip's life in a nutshell it was a life of restrictions, mental abuse, bullying, ridicule in the backdrop of gloom, mist stretched over a marshy land which was Pip's inheritance.

Added to all this, Mrs. Joe kept on repeating the fact that she brought up Pip "by hand". It was from such a sombre environment that Pip was summoned to the Satis House by Miss. Havisham through Pumblechook. The conversation between Pumblechook, Mrs. Joe and Joe made Pip understand that he was required to play at Miss Havisham's. Pip was bewildered as to what play it was going to be. Pip puts it thus. ".... without throwing any light on the questions why on earth I was going to play at Miss Havisham's and what on earth I was expected to play at". With such bewilderment he entered the Satis House and there he realized that his 'play' was to be with a young lady called Estella. Miss Havisham called Estella and said, "Let me see you play with this boy," Estella snapped back, "With this boy! Why he is a common labouring boy.

Further when Estella denounced him for his coarse hands and thick boots it was like adding insult to injury. For the first time in his life he was ashamed of his hands. Estella's contempt was such that, as Pip puts it "........ That it became infectious". Therefore this visit to the Satis House is the birth of Pip's awareness of his deficiency and it is this deficiency that created desire in him.

He was driven by desire to yearn for things far beyond his reach. He yearned for Estella for her beauty and with a realization for higher social status. He identified great expectations with Esella and Miss Havisham despite the fact that such higher social status was quite unfamiliar to his surroundings. He was thus caught in the grip of desire overwhelmed with glitter. Pip's stay in the Satis House ended when it was time for Pip to be apprenticed to Joe. With this apprenticeship Pip was back in the forge but the kind of desire that had rekindled in Pip had the worst effect on him. To him the forge now was coarse and common and he conveys in his narration that he would never have wanted Estella and Miss Havisham to see it. He says that he was so dejected on the first working day of his apprenticeship although he never disclosed it to Joe.

The reader is made to realize how disturbed Pip was on realizing his inferiority and how he detested the humble surroundings to which he was born. It was in the wake of such dejection that he hears of great expectations from the lawyer, Mr. Jaggers.

Mr. Jaggers breaks the news of Pip's great expectations and the terms and conditions stipulated thereof. He also tells Pip that an unknown benefactor had bestowed wealth on him with the idea of making him a gentleman. Pip was under the impression that this unknown benefactor was none other than Miss Havisham. The announcement obviously intoxicated Pip because it was exactly what he wanted in life. He promptly forgot the values inculcated in him by Joe. He was under the illusion that only wealth could make a man complete.

The next phase of his life begins when he arrives in London on the instructions of Mr. Jaggers. Pip was terrified by the vastness of the city of London and also felt the ugliness and the squalor within. He who was ridiculed as a commoner saw glitter in the Satis House which drove him towards great expectations. He was intoxicated and infatuated by the beauty and colour of high society and forgot his poverty-stricken origins. Finally, he fell a prey to the false values of Victorian society and unwittingly steered his life towards bankruptcy and downfall. It was Joe who ultimately came to his rescue.