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Essay on Identity Development in Great Expectations

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Great Expectations tells the ultimate rags to riches story of the Orphan Pip. Dickens takes his readers through life changing events that ultimately mold the identity of the main character. Dividing these events into sections will provide the basis for interpreting which events had the most profound effect on Pip’s identity towards the end of the novel. These life-changing events provide the catalyst for the development of Pip’s character from childhood, his adolescence, maturing into a social gentleman, and finally becoming a self-aware man of society.
The novel opens with Pip in a church cemetery explaining the origin of his name and contemplating how his parents would look if they were alive. Early in the novel, Dickens begins setting up small parts of Pip’s identity by telling the reader that he is an orphan and that as a child he has a vivid imagination that allows him to envision his deceased parents based on their names. Subsequently, Pip encounters the convict, whom he calls “my convict” throughout the novel. This encounter places Pip into a situation in which he fears for his life after the convict threatens his life several times, but also reveals how innocent Pip is even though he constantly blames himself for any misfortune that occurs in his life. Little does Pip know, his meeting with the convict will change his life for the better and for worse. In the text, the convict ask Pip to bring him “wittles” and a “file”, with which Pip agrees to his demands partly because Pip is afraid of the convict and also because he feels some sense of sympathy for the convict (Dickens 5). This sympathy is expounded upon when the police conduct a man hunt for the convict, which makes Pip question his loyalty to his family and od...


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...a who happens to be in there at the same time, taking in the sight one last time before it is to be rebuilt. Being reunited with Estella elicits the repressed feelings Pip has had for her since they last saw one another. One aspect of Pip’s character that remained the same was his love for Estella; even though he was sure nothing would ever come of it after he learned the truth about his expectations.
Dickens creation of an extremely dynamic character allowed for such an elaborate story line that involves numerous themes and interpretations. Pip’s life experiences provide the story an excellent catalyst for developing his identity from his childhood, through his adolescence, becoming a social gentleman, and finally culminating into a true gentleman.



Work Cited
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Charlotte Mitchell. London: Penguin Classics, 1996. Print.


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