Dickens explores many different understandings of generosity in Great Expectations. Though Pip's initial generosity towards Provis is mostly motivated by fear, Provis understands it as true generosity and responds by selflessly devoting his life's savings towards Pip's future. Meanwhile, Mrs. Joe and Uncle Pumblechook understand generosity as a status marker and are much more interested in being considered generous than in actually acting generously. They thus constantly take credit for Joe's generosity to better their own reputations in town.
Later, Pip believes that the best kind of generosity is anonymous and claims that his life's only good deed was his secret donation to Herbert's career. Indeed, many of the novel's most generous acts—including Provis', Joe's, and Pip's—are not recognized for a long time, implying that the truly generous give without expecting immediate recognition. Yet, despite the delay, every gift's giver is eventually discovered and thanked, which suggests that true generosity is always rewarded in the end. Pip's ability to recognize generosity shifts over the course of the novel and his early ingratitude towards Joe and Provis evolves into deep appreciation. These men also inspire magnanimousness in Pip himself, who selflessly devotes himself to Provis in part III.
Generosity Quotes in Great Expectations
As I passed the church, I felt…a sublime compassion for the poor creatures who were destined to go there, Sunday after Sunday, all their lives through, and to lie obscurely at last among the low green mounds. I promised myself that I would do something for them one of these days, and formed a plan in outline for bestowing a dinner of roast beef and plum pudding, a pint of ale, and a gallon of condescension upon everybody in the village.
"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man's a blacksmith, and one's a whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith. Divisions among such must come, and must be met as they come. If there's been any fault at all to-day, it's mine. You and me is not two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but what is private, and beknown, an understood among friends. It ain't that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall never see me no more in these clothes. I'm wrong in these clothes. I'm wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th'meshes. You won't find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my pipe."
"Miss Havisham gives you to him as the greatest slight and injury that could be done to the many far better men who admire you, and to the few who truly love you. Among those few, there may be one who loves you even as dearly, though he has not loved you as long as I. Take him, and I can bear it better for your sake."
For now my repugnance to [Provis] had all melted away, and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe.