A great burden for human beings is to carry ourselves the way we want others to see us. Though each governed by a private set of beliefs, no man is an island for a reason, as we are subject to natural instinct, which compels us to strive for acceptance by others in society. However, though one part of life is about fulfilling the expectations of society in order to fit in, the other reflects how we see ourselves and what we hold our potentials to be. What we expect of ourselves is based upon the desire for self-improvement and attempting to come out of experiences with something we didn't know before. While expectations give a sense of having something to look forward to, they may also cross the thin line of what is practical into what is idealistic. Having the mindset to act and respond in certain ways can be attributed to core beliefs, but to cultivate the lofty image of ourselves as nobler beings is as unrealistic as it is to hope for wings. The very struggle to straddle the border of reasonable expectations is evident in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, a Bildungsroman that follows the life of orphan Pip Pirrip, who seeks the values of his society as well as his own.
[...] Firstly, the person of whom we so desire approval may not respond in the way we expect them to and secondly, in the process of radically changing ourselves, we may have to make sacrifices and disregard the ones we care about as a result of devoting so much attention and energy to an endeavor. In the case of Pip, though he up to Joe in [his] heart” and has fear of losing Joe's confidence,” after he comes into his fortune and becomes more educated, he finds himself wanting to change his uncle in order to make him “less ignorant and common that he might be worthier of [his] society and less open to Estella's reproach” 126). [...]
[...] Because Pip's expectations are so great, the common ground that he has with his uncle falls away as the latter begins to feel that he is below Pip by the way he addresses him as later on (260). As aforementioned, Pip attempts to climb the ladder of society in order to make himself worthy of Estella because he doesn't think that other human virtues such as kindness or goodness would be taken into account when it comes to winning her love. [...]
[...] Consequently, he is filled with abhorrence and repugnance insomuch that he wishes Magwitch left [him] at the forge—from contented, yet, by comparison happy” (375). From this devastating turn of events, Pip loses his great expectations for himself and “[begins] fully to know how wrecked [he is] and how the ship had sailed gone to pieces” (378). The higher we are, the harder we fall. By pursuing his expectations to extreme ends, Pip puts himself at great risk by cultivating the idea that anything is attainable as long as he tries. [...]
[...] as he is constantly reaching for higher ground. His expectations for himself to improve his worth by upping his social status as well as his own morality are detrimental to his human condition because he does it for the wrong reasons and as a result, they draw him away from the pursuit of happiness, the most important thing in life. Education plays an important role in determining social status in that the wealthy are typically more educated and the amount of education at each rung of the social ladder considerably decreases with each step down. [...]
[...] What Pip doesn't realize is that when a person works hard at something, the work reaps its own rewards. That is, Joe's pride lies in his work and he remains loyal to what he does as well as who he is. This in turn gives him pleasure because it affirms his sense of self. He's fine with being a common man whereas Pip is convinced that happiness is difficult to come by for a common man thus he believes in bettering himself morally as well as socially to win the love of Estella, which he fails to do. [...]
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