The only real gentleman in Great Expectations is Herbert. Write an essay arguing either for or against this point of view using quotations to support your arguments. You should look at other characters, for example, Pip, Joe, Drummle and Compeyson. You will need to define exactly what you think is meant by a ‘gentleman’.
Throughout Great Expectations, the author, Charles Dickens, makes a point of focussing on ‘gentlemen’, in particular, Herbert Pocket, Pip Pirrip, Bentley Drummle, Compeyson, and Joe Gargery. He shows his personal opinion on the subject, namely that money does not necessarily make a gentleman. The dictionary defines a gentleman as being a man of honourable and kindly behaviour and of good social position. In this essay, I shall be arguing the point that Herbert is the only true gentleman in the dictionary sense of the word.
Herbert Pocket is one of the children of Mr. Matthew Pocket and his wife Camilla. His father is a private tutor, and his mother comes from a well-bred family. They are impoverished aristocrats and do not have much money. Despite this, Herbert has been well brought up. In the book, our first encounter with Herbert is during Pip’s second visit to the home of Miss. Havisham, Satis House. He is referred to as the “pale young gentleman”. Before he and Pip fight just after their first meeting, Herbert said, “I ought to give you a reason for fighting.” This is an example of good manners and is an example of gentlemanly behaviour. Even after been defeated by Pip during the fight, he says “it will be magnanimous in you if you’ll forgive me for having knocked you about so”, another example of gentlemanly behaviour.
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After Pip moves in with Herbert in London, Pip, in talking about Herbert, says that he has never seen anyone who had a “natural incapacity to do anything secret and mean.” This good-natured, open and kind behaviour described by Pip is a gentlemanly trait.
During the dinner in which Herbert tells Pip about Miss. Havisham’s past, there are several indications and examples of Herbert being a gentleman. Pip says, “I am conscious that he carried off his rather old clothes, much better than I carried off my new suit.” This seems to indicate that Pip sees Herbert looks more of a gentleman in his old clothes than he does in his new clothes. During the meal, when Pip is eating, his table manners leave a lot to be desired. Herbert, further proving he to be a gentleman, politely sips Pip a few pointers on the gentlemanly way of eating. He does this several times, one of the most obvious being “Take another glass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society as a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious in emptying one’s glass, as to turn it bottom upwards with the rim on his nose.”
When Joe visits later on in the story, Herbert shows him politeness and selflessness; an example of this is when he asks Joe if he would like coffee. When Joe replies that he would prefer not to have coffee, Herbert says “Say tea then.” This putting other before himself is a gentlemanly quality.
In conclusion, Herbert is definitely a gentleman, and there are many examples of this in the text.
Bentley Drummle is another of the ‘gentleman’ in Dickens’s story. He is a rich man and is heir to a baronetcy. Dickens, through his writing, shows that Drummle is not a true gentleman. He is described as having “a large awkward tongue” and being “idle, proud” and “niggardly”; these are not properties that a gentleman should be proud of. Pip describes him as “reserved and suspicious” and calls Drummle a “blockhead.” He is selfish, arrogant and disagreeable. He is likened to “some uncomfortable amphibious creature” and a “floundering heavy creature.” These quotations suitably reflect his personality and behaviour.
Later on in the book, Drummle is making fun of Pip’s origins when he says “curious little public-houses and smithies and that”. Drummle’s pursuit of Estella is not for love, but simply to own her, to have her as a possession. After the wedding, Drummle becomes violent and callous towards Estella. Although Bentley Drummle has the social status and wealth to be a gentleman, he lacks morals and is not as true a gentleman as Herbert.
Compeyson, as Herbert said, “was not to be mistaken for a gentleman.” He was a “showy man”, devious, sly, and had “the head of the devil”. He embezzled money from Miss. Havisham when he was younger and had become engaged to marry her, only to abandon her before their wedding. He also led Abel Magwitch into a life of major crime, which led to both of them being jailed for a long time. Compeyson, using his position in society, shifted much of the blame onto Magwitch, which was not a very gentlemanly thing to do. He may have had the status and wealth to be a gentleman, like Drummle, but his total lack of morals and disregard of other people make him nowhere near as much a gentleman as Herbert.
Joe Gargery is Pip’s brother-in-law and the man who brought him up as a son. He is a simple blacksmith living in the country, and at first impression, he is not what you would call a gentleman. He is a “fair man”, “mild”, “easy-going”, “sweet-tempered”, “honest” and “good-natured”, all gentlemanly qualities. He has no illusions into which class he is placed in, and two examples of this are when he says “You won’t find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge dress” and “I’m wrong in these clothes.” Joe, although he has the morals of a gentleman, he lacks the social and financial elements needed to become a real gentleman.
That neatly brings us to Pip. At the start of the book, he definitely lacks the qualities needed to be a gentleman. He is poor, illiterate, and uneducated. He is quite content with this life until he comes into contact with Estella. His love for her leads to dreams of being a gentleman, and he thinks his dreams have come true when he comes into his expectations. He thinks that he had instantaneously become a gentleman, and with that belief, he sees himself as above everybody else. He becomes arrogant, snobbish and self-important.
He is still the boy he was at the start f the story, yet he does not realise it until he meets Herbert and realises he has still got a long way to go before he can be called a gentleman. During his time living with Herbert, Pip learns from him and evolves into a more gentlemanly figure, although he still lacks certain things. When Magwitch arrives, Pip plans for him to leave the country, putting his own life at risk. Pip also sets Herbert up in business, without his knowledge. At the end, after losing Magwitch’s money, he is quite content in moving back to the forge to live with Joe. These three things show that Pip has completed his personal evolution from a simple country boy into a gentleman.
Herbert, throughout the entire book, has been a gentleman, whilst Pip has grown up to become a gentleman throughout the whole course of this book. Joe has the morals of a gentleman, yet lacks status and money, while the opposite is true for Drummle and Compeyson, they have status and money, yet they lack the morals needed to become a true gentleman.
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