As a child Pip views the world naively, an issue that returns throughout Great Expectations. A marked difference exists between his point of view and the opinions of the adults that surround him. His sister and the people with whom she associates patronize him while glorifying their adult wisdom. Pumblechook fulfills this role of arrogant and ignorant adult especially well, constantly reminding Pip to “be for ever grateful. . .to them which brought you up by hand." Despite his lack of worldliness, Pip possesses a degree of insight that many of the adults do not have. . As he later points out, “In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice."

Joe bridges the gap that exists between the two types of experience. The other adults tolerate him while mocking his naïveté and child-like perception of the world. Most of the adults in young Pip's world other than Joe have pretensions to superiority that make them very unlikeable, but his honesty makes him a hero to the young boy: “There's one thing you may be sure of Pip," said Joe, after some rumination, “namely, that lies is lies. Howsever they come, they didn't ought to come, and the come from the father of lies, and work round to the same. Don't tell no more of ‘em, Pip. That ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap..."

Joe's repetitive and predictable actions in uncomfortable situations also contribute to his image as a child-like character. He responds to conflict in a very passive fashion, “Joe's station and influence were something feebler (if possible) when there was company . . . But he always aided and comforted me when he could, in some way of his own, and he always did so at dinnertime by giving me gravy." Joe's simplicity, evident to all who encounter him, eventually becomes a source of embarrassment for Pip. The boy repeatedly explains that he “wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common" so that he might be “worthier" of his society. This contributes greatly to Pip's inferiority complex when in the presence of Estella and serves to highlight the class differences even more in the novel.

Questions

1. Dickens uses a lot of repetition in his writing. For example, Camilla is forever exclaiming “The idea!" while Joe cries “Astonishing!" upon meeting Miss Havisham. How does this repetition function in the novel?

2. Is Great Expectations an accurate representation of the contrast between rural and urban areas at the time?

3. Aside from his easy nature, why do you think Joe submits so easily to his wife?

4. Why do you think Mr. Pumblechook and his fellow adults display such superiority? Do they really have anything to feel arrogant about?


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 20 February 2008