Evaluate The Role Of Agency In Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

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Evaluate the role of agency in the text. To what degree do Pip or Jane function as a ‘free’ ‘autonomous’ individuals, and to what degree are they shaped by society? In the opening paragraphs of Great Expectations, Pip’s world is turned upside down as Magwitch holds him aloft like a ragdoll: “I saw the steeple under my legs” (10). He is Magwitch’s plaything. Later, on his first visit to Miss Havisham, he becomes her ‘sick fancy’ as she points at him and commands: “play, play, play!” (51). Just two early examples of how Pip is not a free agent or an autonomous individual but must act at the behest of others. Indeed, the critic Humphrey House maintains that Pip’s helplessness is emotional as well as financial. He goes further: “He directs nothing; things happen to him; everybody except Joe and Biddy use him” (646). This essay will demonstrate to what degree Pip’s growth as an individual was shaped and curtailed by his society. It will also contend that society and circumstances may have shaped Pip the man but it was market forces and the sentimental demands of a readership that created Pip the character. When you place Pip at the centre of the novel’s universe you begin to appreciate the many manipulative forces and powerfully controlling influences that surround him. Miss Havisham, Magwitch, Estella, Mrs. Joe, Herbert Pocket, Jaggers – even Uncle Pumblechook; all, in their own way, manipulate, impede, shape and claim ownership of the man and boy that is Pip. Above the

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