Great Expectations


A single act of kindness, from one person's perspective, can change a recipients' life. In the novel, Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, Pip, who is the protagonist and narrator of the story, is an example of how acts directed towards one person can have various outcomes. As the story follows the life of Pip, he is placed in many situations where he is the witness to and receiver of acts of generosity and kindness from Mr. Joe Gargery, Miss Havisham, and Magwitch. However, what one person sees as kindness, may not be what another person sees, which is why motive is important in order to understand the possible degree of actual kindness that is involved in the act.


Pip, who is brought up "by hand" by his sister, has Mr. Joe, the blacksmith, to use as a role model of kindness. Joe is described as an angelic figure that is named after St. Joseph, the father of the Christ child. Joe, who was abused as a child, justifies his wanting to keep company with Pip's sister as making sure that baby Pip had the opportunity to get brought up safely, unlike Joe did himself. He was always kind to Pip, and was a good role model by always being kind to others inside and outside their home at the Forge. While on the hunt for the convict out on the marshes, Pip was held on the blacksmith's back so that he would not fall behind, and even after the convict confesses to taking food from the Gargery's home, Joe simply returns with kind words to the stranger: "God know you're welcome to it- so far as it was ever mine, we don't know what you've done but we wouldn't have you starved to death for it, poor miserable fellow creature."[1] Joe has the ability to see others as equals. Everyone with whom he comes into contact receives the same amount of respect, even if he himself does not get treated as well as he should be.


Joe is a true gentleman in this novel; he has been able to overcome negative obstacles and still be a positive role model. He exercises tolerance, understanding and forgiveness in dealing with people around him day to day. Although his first wife, Pip's sister, did not treat Joe with the greatest of gentleness Joe did his best to be by her side and to help her out in all ways possible. After Mrs. Joe became an invalid, Joe, along with Pip's old friend Biddy, took care of her regardless of the strict attitudes she had prior to her attack. Lastly, as to the unfavorable treatment Joe received from Pip, Joe was able to swallow his pride and accept Pip's arrogant personal conduct: "Joe never complained of anything…but ever did his duty in his way of life, with a strong hand, a quiet tongue and a gentle heart"[2]. Although he was uneducated, Joe understood the importance to young Pip of gentleman-like behavior and because of this, when Pip showed embarrassment regarding him, Joe was able to remove himself from the situation so that Pip would be satisfied. As a result of Joe's great qualities, Pip, although he doesn't realize it right away, learns that it is how well you treat others, not your status in life that makes you a true and kind gentleman.


Miss. Havisham is an old lady who was jilted on her wedding day as a young woman, and now feels hatred for all men. She willingly takes in young Estella, but she doesn't do this for the good of the child, she does it to create in Estella a breaker of men's hearts. Miss Havisham is pleased to see that Pip falls in love with Estella, and takes pleasure when Estella treats him with disrespect. Miss Havisham's intentions are to impose her resentment towards men on Estella. This act of selfishness, is seen by Miss Havisham as being beneficial, but because Estella is being influenced via Miss Havisham's bias and not being able to create her own opinions, it is an example of how an act of kindness can have a negative effect on the receiver.


Not all of Miss Havisham's acts are negative however, but it depends on the motives