In Dickens' novel, Great Expectations, the main theme running through the work deals with the maturing of individuals, and the question of what being a gentleman consists of. From his first encounter with Miss Hav isham and more significantly, the young Estella, Pip's main focus and goal is on improving his simplistic and rustic lower class lifestyle, and his aims to become a gentleman. He sees many errors in his common working class ways, and is ashamed of them to the extent that he dreams to rid himself of his crude habits, and raise himself in social class. On the surface, the book deals with a young working class boy who has been exposed to a higher class of living, and strives to someday be as elegant and gentleman-like as people of that social class.
Dickens includes in the story several characters such as Herbert Pocket, Mr. Jagger's, and Wem mick who Pip sees as true gentlemen, men with class and dignity, and a much better education background than himself. On the surface, Dickens is proposing to us an image of what a gentleman is. The main things these men have in common is a higher social class (as opposed to working class) and "proper" education. At the time the novel is set in, you had to have these characteristics and many others to be a gentleman. Upon examining Dickens' writings a little closer, I found that the underlying theme to the story was that it you have to look deeper than just the surface to find what characteristics in a person are gentleman-like, and who a gentleman is.
Dickens presents for us the realism that it isn't necessary to speak as an upper class person of the time did, to dress in expensive, elegant clothes, or to have a middle to upper class background to actually be a gentleman. Rather, Dickens gives us the supporting evidence that goes to show that being a true gentleman doesn't have to do all with physical appearance and eloquence, but more s with what's in your heart, soul, and mind. True gentleman-like qualities are more moral values and courtesies, rather than apparent representations of social (class) status and wealth. Dickens uses the character Joe Garg ery to convey this underlying message of what traits a real gentleman is comprised of. Joe is one of the kindest, most honest, and sincere characters in the novel. He is a common blacksmith - a member of the working class, not the middle or upper class.
Joe speaks in simple, sometimes grammatically incorrect language, and is just learning to write. Despite all of these signs of being less than the socially elite, the author proves to us that Joe is a gentleman through his abundance of good qualities. Dickens also conveys this same point with the main character, Pip. Pip starts out as a common laboring boy with good senses to him, and through his good fortunes, learn supposed gentleman-like traits by being exposed to people of class, studying their behavior, and learning their ways.
It's true that Pip learns a great deal from all of this, but he learns just as much of his strong moral convictions from his mentor, Joe. By the end of the story, Joe no longer is as fortunate as he was earlier in the story financially, and is looked on as less of a gentleman because of it. He did raise himself up a bit in the nearly rigid class system of England, but now had to work hard for the money he earned. It's apparent to the reader that at the end of the story, Pip is still as much of a gentleman as he was in his more fortunate times, but to the society he was living in, he wasn't.
Dickens furthers this point by showing that through all of his learning and maturing, Pip has truly become a real gentleman.