Character Analysis Pip


Pip has low self-esteem. He is not valued and does not value himself. He feels guilty for his very existence, thanks to his sister who constantly reminds him how she has suffered because of him. Other relatives and friends reinforce his feelings by telling him how grateful he should be. His only positive in life is Joe, and Pip looks forward to being his apprentice in the forge. Miss Havisham and Estella, however, destroy that dream when they teach him to be ashamed of his coarse and common life. Their influence, coupled with his low self-worth and his sister's messages about wealth and security, fuel his desires, ambitions, and snobbery.

Pip, abused by his sister, is a passive personality who fears the stronger emotions in him. He rarely shows power, passion, or self-determination, reacting instead to those around him and living his life as a dreamer. The fantasy world of Satis House feeds that part of him. Shut from the light of day, Miss Havisham lives in her strange world. Pip responds to this and preserves that world by keeping the light of day — questions his sister and Pumblechook ask — from destroying its special fairy-tale quality. That world is something that is his, and it holds his only passion in life, the fairy-tale princess he desires, Estella. In that world there are things he has never seen — beauty, wealth, polish, power — and they dazzle him. They become his quest in life and he will give up everything — Joe, the forge, his own good conscience and behavior — to get money and Estella.

In Pip, the reader sees several of the themes of the novel: obsession, desire, greed, guilt, ambition, wealth, and good and evil. Pip leaves his state of childish innocence and "grace" and descends into sin on his quest to gain his desires. He wants it all and he wants no costs. Yet Dickens does not make him totally bad, instead leaving the truly good qualities asleep underneath. They surface as his guilt over his snobbery to Joe and Biddy, over dragging Herbert into debt, and about trading Joe for a convict's money. Even during his worst moments, Pip manages to show some good, as, for example, when he sets Herbert up in business. His road back to grace starts when Magwitch reveals himself as the source of Pip's rise in social stature. The irony that the source of his gentility is from a creature more socially detestable than the uneducated Joe is not lost on Pip. It is the slap in the face that brings Pip out of the fantasy world he has been living in. His dream has suddenly been seen in the light of day, and now he knows what it has cost him.

The concepts of self-responsibility and the cost for choices made make up his lessons in the last part of the book. Nothing in life comes free and one must accept the consequences of the choices made. Dickens generously gives Pip four "father figures" in the book to model this for him. Joe makes his choice to stay with Mrs. Joe and show her more love than his mother had, fully accepting the cost of enduring her abuse. Jaggers chooses control and an emotionless life and accepts the cost of loneliness and alienation. Wemmick knows the only way to support himself, his father, and their home is to endure an emotionless job that could drive him crazy if he let it; he accepts responsibility by keeping his work and home life separate and knowingly accepts and pays the price for his actions. Magwitch knows the cost for seeing his "dear boy" is death, makes his choice to go to England anyway, and accepts the outcome. Pip learns from all of them that there are no free rides, that wealth does not guarantee freedom from consequences, and in the end he has to take responsibility for whatever he chooses.