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Becoming a gentleman

1. Dickens presents his stingy critique of the obsession with wealth and
status, by showing that material wealth does not confer happiness

2. He also critiques disdain for labour by contrasting it with the

contentment derived from its toil.

3. He makes a distinction between mere observation of etiquette and

true gentility.

In each case, Dickens contrasts societal perceptions with what he feels are
more important values.

Magwitch identifies Pips material possessions watch, which are markers
of his status as a gentleman which society would identify as well. Dickens
neatly undercuts this with the depiction of Pips revulsion towards
Magwitch. Outwardly he is a gentleman but his character has lost its
original compassion for the poor convict.

Material possessions do not merely mark the outer as supposed to the

inner man. They fail to bring happiness (chapter 34: Pips wealth brings
him very little emotional satisfaction in spite of his indulgence in material
pleasures. Only his act of purchasing a partnership for Herbert has any
lasting impact because it is an instance of wealth used not for self
gratification but for the benefit of another. (The only good thing that
comes out of Pips expectations)

Dickens is also an advocate for honest work, be it manual or not. He
presents the corrupting effects of idleness.

The link between status and avoidance of manual labour has perpetuated
throughout affecting working class woman, for e.g, Mrs Joe is deeply
resentful of Joes status and financial inability to hire a servant. Her apron
symbolises the domestic duties she has to perform.

Finches of the grove: no purpose other than merry making

Contentment in Pips life once he has joined Herbert. It is not the

acquisition of wealth that is the source of satisfaction, but rather work
itself and also having an honest reputation.

Metaphor of varnished wood in chapter 22 makes clear that what matters
is the quality of the person underneath, if what is underneath is flawed,
then fancy clothes and manners highlight the flaws, if what is underneath
is true and good, then fancy clothes and manners highlight the good. The
surface finish cannot mask what a person really is.

one mans a blacksmith... Joe uses a metalsmithing metaphor to explain

the natural divisions of life and the class stereotypes society has
produced. Joe does not blame Pip for what he has done, understanding
that those are borne out of the norms of society.

As pip becomes wealthier he buries the traits that made Magwitch want to
make him a gentleman in the first place

The loss of his wealth is accompanied by the realisation of what is truly


Wealthy people like Miss Havisham and Drummle are not necessarily
happy and are not better human beings.

Wealth is only of lasting benefit when it is used for others (Pip purchasing
a partnership for Herbert, Joe paying off Pips debt)

Herbert and Joe stand as models for true gentlemanliness in the novel.

Link to other themes: growing up & identity; great ex; materialism/

wealth/ money