Essay: Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Great Expectations is a novel that centres on the life of a young boy, Phillip Pirrip, who lives with his abusive sister and her husband, his kind brother in law and his journey and the trials and tribulations throughout his life. Throughout the novel we meet many characters who have had a profound effect and have greatly influenced Pip’s life. These characters have helped him grow into the well-rounded character he becomes at the end of the novel. John Wemmick plays a pivotal role as he acts as friend, confidant and father figure too Pip.

In the novel, we meet Wemmick for the first time through second hand encounters, as Mr Jaggers asks his pleading clients the question; “Have you paid Wemmick yet?” From this encounter, we get the impression that Wemmick is an important and vital part in Mr Jaggers’ day to day life and that he is someone that should be feared. When Wemmick is introduced, Charles Dickens’s description of his appearance is very detailed and colourful: “A square wooden face, whose expression seemed to have been imperfectly chiselled out with a dull-edged chisel…he had glittering eyes–small, keen, and black–and thin mottled lips…his mouth was such a post office of a mouth.”

As shown in most characters, there are two sides to every person. Not only is Wemmick described as a hard, stoic, stiff, uncaring and professional, Dickens gives him a softer side in the way he presents Wemmick’s house as quaint, cute and filled with many quirks. In addition to his house, Wemmick’s softer image/side is preserved through the fact that he cares for his ailing father. Through these things, Wemmick’s personality and demeanour softens in direct contrast to his cold and professional work lifestyle. Overall, Wemmick can be described as stolid character who has a tough side that is left behind at work but in contrast, he is an affectionate and caring man who cares for his family and the comforts of his home at home.

Wemmick plays a big and influential role in Pip’s life as a male role model and father figure. Pip is influenced and uses Wemmick’s work persona as a guideline of professionalism as he keeps his social life and professional life separate. Wemmick attains a freedom to live life to the fullest and he does it with incredible integrity. He is alone in his success, all the other characters have failed miserably. Wemmick’s pragmatic approach to life is unheard of in Pip’s life as Wemmick has learned the practicality of life through working for Jaggers’ law firm, he acts pragmatically and practically; completely separating his work and personal life, being described as being able to switch off the person he is at home at work.

In conclusion, John Wemmick can be described as a complex character who separates himself into two different people in an attempt to distance himself from his caring persona. Throughout the novel, Wemmick is tangled in an inner conflict, a conflict within himself in which his split personalities clash as he tries to keep them as separate as possible. As described earlier, at home he is a friendly caring person but at work his entire persona changes into business-like, cold and practically void of any emotion. He is always serious and doesn’t let his guard down, and when at work his attention is always on the task at hand as well as Mr Jaggers. It seems as though he is afraid of people seeing his other softer side, the person he is when he is at home caring for his ailing father and is the confines of his castle at Walworth, as he fears that being seen as soft and lenient when compared to his rigid superior Mr. Jaggers. These inner conflicts are never truly resolved as Wemmick believes that the way he loves his life is the way life should be. For example, when Pip lets out that Wemmick has a complete different life at home, the relationship between the two changes significantly and it is not for the better and momentary.

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