Pip’s Rejection Of The Sacred Domesticity

Great Expectations, the novel, is about the education and upbringing a young boy named Pip. His younger sister and her husband are the ones who raise him “byhand”. The novel tells the story of Pip as an adult. It is written from his point of view. His moral education is left for his sister. She teaches him that Pip shouldn’t have been born to cause her worry. Pip also learns a few lines in the Catechism. This message states that Pip must “walk the exact same way every day.” One aspect of Pip’s education is absent. It is the indoctrination with a set or code of spiritual beliefs. Pip doesn’t seem to know any higher purpose in his actions or circumstances. Most of the philosophical thought in this novel is from Pip The Narrator. He writes from a later period. This is why it is so important to mention something that has a spiritual meaning at the beginning. Pip doesn’t see this as a teaching from God, but his own home. Pip rejects this space, believing that it would be his best chance of happiness. Pip rejects the “sacred domesticity” three times in his childhood. This leaves him open to outside forces that could threaten his ability to control his destiny.

Pip doesn’t even realize the sacredness of his home until he steals food from the convict. This is Pip’s first incident as told to him by his older self. But, even though he believes he is being forced to steal, the way he executes his orders clearly shows that he does not have the right to. He explains that he was almost going to leave without the pie but was tempted to mount upon the shelf to see what it was. First, Pip was already removing bread, cheese and mincemeat. Pip has the freedom to choose whether or not he wants to eat the pie. He admits that he was “tempted” and would like to climb up the shelves. The Christmas pie is the highlight of the meal. Assuming that young Pip didn’t have any choice but to eat some food (as his beliefs and the reader lead him to believe), he might have felt like a prisoner, instead of a criminal. Although he may have taken the pie to spite his sister, he has the option to decide what he will steal. Pip begins to regret his home and yearn for a better life. Pip says that his home had not been pleasant. Joe had made it sacred. He had believed in Joe’s front door as a portal to the Temple of State. Ironically, he only realizes what this means and decides to leave it. This is the most important sentence in this passage. If the forge represents independence and manhood, then rejecting it means rejecting these ideals. Pip doesn’t do this intentionally; he never says he doesn’t want to be independent or a man. However, he has realized that these things are not his priority and his actions show it. While he loves the independence that his newfound fortune offers, it only takes him away from his family and places him closer to the “gentleman” status. He doesn’t work for his future, but lives lavishly on this “independence”. He is more dependent than the lowest blacksmith because he does not work. Pip makes London his home and becomes a man. However, the age of Pip does not mean that he is mature. He doesn’t speak of taking pride in his status as a man. His lifestyle is extravagant and he has no ability to manage his wealth. Pip does not like domestics, but he could have been financially independent and more secure if he did.

After rejecting sacred domesticity in his thoughts, he finally takes it out of action when he moves in London to complete his gentleman’s education. Pip is willing to give up his domestic happiness in order to fulfill his expectations. Pip believes this is an important change in his lives, but he is now more uncertain than ever. He said that his expectations were “And at the best, how uncertain and unsatisfactory” (277). Because the end of expectations is dependent on external forces, even the word “expectation”, implies an indefinite ending. Pip expects things to happen, and not works towards a goal. Herbert, his roommate is an example of Pip’s optimistic outlook. Herbert always looks out for his fortune. He believes that his fortune will come through opportunities and not by him. Pip is less active than Herbert. While Herbert dreams of investing capital, Pip lives a simple life, doing only what is asked. Herbert is told by Pip that he feels dependent and uncertain and has been exposed to hundreds upon chances (277). Pip gives up control over his life by allowing others to decide his fate.

Pip discovers his high expectations and the change in his higher purpose. His life no longer revolves around the glory of manhood, independence, or dependence on Fortune. This changeable deity is what he looks to for support and meaning. Herbert hears Pip say that he doesn’t know how to raise himself, but that Fortune has raised him. (277). Pip is not yet able to realize his expectations. The novel’s first section does not mention Fortune or Fate. Pip, however gives Fortune the most significant thing he has ever experienced. In the same sentence, he rejects Mrs. Joe’s upbringing. He claims that he was “raised in fortune”, echoing a phrase he had heard repeatedly throughout his childhood. Pip believed that being raised in fortune was better than being raised hand. He thought this meant being subject to punishment.

Pip’s refusal to accept the sacred domesticity of his expectations in favour of his desires is problematic, as it doesn’t allow him to control his destiny or bring him happiness. At one point, he even thought that “I would have been happier…if Miss Havisham had not seen my face” (300). Again, he again links life in the furnace to manhood, and in that thought, with honesty. This contrasts his recurrent sense of criminality. Pip’s dilemma reflects another problem with Victorian notions of “being gentlemen”. Dickens asks if it would have been better to create one’s life than have it created for you by someone else. Pip would not have been able to marry Estella if he had become a blacksmith.


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Paraphrased: It was discovered through the research

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Eds. Graham Law, Adrian J Pinnington. Ontario: Broadview Press, 1998.


  • lindabarber

    I'm Linda Barber, a 29-year-old blogger and teacher. I'm passionate about writing and communicating ideas, and I love helping others achieve their goals. I also love going on adventures, learning new things, and spending time with my family and friends.



I'm Linda Barber, a 29-year-old blogger and teacher. I'm passionate about writing and communicating ideas, and I love helping others achieve their goals. I also love going on adventures, learning new things, and spending time with my family and friends.

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