Sunday, May 06, 2012

In which I remember that Pip is a jerk, and find a song about the book. (Sundays with the Classics)

I spent the first five minutes on this post trying to get a video for the song Great Expectations to load into the post.  So much for the Internet, eh?  I think if you're going to claim to have a thing that does a thing it should work seamlessly at least 90% of the time, or you shouldn't claim that your thing works.  Think about the stuff you use that works flawlessly nearly every time: a toaster, for example, or the space program.  If your toaster was as unreliable as the Internet is, you'd never make toast.

I'm up to the part of Great Expectations where Pip has been informed that he has come into some property, and immediately has become an even greater jerk than he was before; prior to Jaggers coming and pointing his finger at Pip, the fingerpointing being perhaps symbolic of the way society ought to feel about the little monster, Pip was only slightly unsympathetic: Having been made to feel foolish about his thick boots, coarse hands, and the way he calls the knaves, jacks (or the other way around, I can't remember), Pip was overwhelmed by the fanciness of Miss Havisham's (?) and secretly loathed his surroundings, not even really making the best of it, but at least somewhat trying to improve them by, say, teaching Joe Gargery to spell J-O Joe.

But once he gets a bit of money -- how much money? I can't remember.  He was given, I think, 20 guineas, by Jaggers to get some clothing.  I looked up guineas and found that it was slang for a pound, so one guinea would equal about $3.00 today, so 20 guineas would be about $60.  Miss Havisham had given Pip 25 guineas for his services, which really is a quite phenomenal amount for simply pushing her around in her chair.  Great Expectations is set around the mid-1800s, and so I looked up to see what 25 pounds would be worth today, and this site says it's worth anywhere from $1800 to 43,000 pounds.

Which cannot possibly be right, can it? Miss Havisham did not give Pip $86,000 (or the equivalent thereof).

Or did she?

Let's just agree it's a lot of money, and the fact that Pip is given that much just to buy clothes and get to London to study with Mr. Matthew Pocket gives an idea of how staggering his expectations are, and begins Unlikeable Pip, who immediately insults Joe and feels sorry for himself and insults Biddy, too, and begins to feel himself above Trabb's boy and ends up the night eating the best parts of the tongue with Mr. Pumblechook -- who Pip finds himself liking, figuring he'd figured Old Pumblechook wrong all those years.

Of course, what Unlikeable Pip really likes is that Pumblechook is sucking up to him, and he dislikes the people that don't. Pip also learns really quickly that having lots of money is a good way to get the locals to give him respect, and so as he goes about town getting his finery, he points out that he didn't have to keep mentioning the money... but he does, anyway.

So two things, then:  One, Pip wasn't always this unlikeable, was he? I don't think so.  The kid who snuck the bread out to the convict and looked forward to the larks with Joe Gargery wasn't the same one who figured he couldn't bring Joe into high society without edumacatin' him.

Second: What changed him, so quick? Was Pip's character really so fragile that an afternoon with a weird lady and a pretty, cold young woman is enough to entirely destroy him?

I mean, because Pip really really is a jerk, and he's a jerk fast.  He goes south really quickly.  I'd forgotten that from when I last read this book: Pip is not a likeable person, at all, by the time he gets told of his expectations, and quickly becomes even less likeable.

And, the bonus third thing:

I got that video to work.


Andrew Leon said...

I have know people (guys) that became jerks almost over night. It almost always had to do with a girl and trying to impress said girl.

So... a little bit of money and wanting to impress a girl = unlikable Pip.

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