In Great Expectations, Dickens explores pride as both a positive and a negative trait by presenting various types of pride ranging from Estella and Bentley Drummle's snobbery to Joe and Biddy's moral uprightness. The crucial distinction between these different varieties of pride is whether they rely on other people's opinions or whether they spring from a character's internal conscience and personal sense of accomplishment. Characters who espouse the former variety are concerned with reputation, not with integrity. Among them are Mrs. Joe, Uncle Pumblechook, Estella, and Bentley Drummle. Because these characters measure themselves according to public opinion, they are constantly comparing themselves to the people around them and denigrating others in order to make themselves seem superior by comparison.
Yet because it's impossible to be sure of other people's opinions, they are never satisfied. Mrs. Joe and Bentley Drummle are sour-tempered and Pip is deeply unhappy for the majority of the novel. Characters like Joe and Biddy, on the other hand, possess integrity and thus value themselves according to their own standards of success. Because they are self-sufficient rather than dependent on others for affirmation, these characters are at peace with themselves and can actually experience contentment. Over the course of the novel, Pip evolves from being a person invested in reputation to being a person with integrity. Estella first triggers Pip's obsession with reputation and he spends many miserable years frantically trying to inflate Estella's opinion of him. Yet eventually, Pip learns to listen to his internal conscience and stops placing so much value on others' views.
Shame plays an integral role in this education. For most of the novel, Pip suppresses his shame at mistreating Joe and Biddy and avoids apologizing to them. This behavior prioritizes reputation, refusing to acknowledge shame so that the public will not see it. A person with integrity, by contrast, apologizes because he has prioritized his conscience over controlling how others see him. Only after being humbled by financial loss and by Provis' misfortune does Pip develop the integrity to admit his own errors and apologize to Joe and Biddy. Along the way, Wemmick's respect for domestic life and Herbert's virtuousness point Pip in the right direction.
Integrity and Reputation ThemeTracker
Integrity and Reputation Quotes in Great Expectations
I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.
"…lies is lies. Howsoever they come, they didn't ought to come, and they come from the father of lies, and work round to the same. Don't you tell no more of ‘em, Pip. That ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap…If you can't get to be uncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked."
…my young mind was in that disturbed and unthankful state that I thought long after I laid me down, how common Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith: how thick his boots, and how coarse his hands. I thought how Joe and my sister were then sitting in the kitchen, and how Miss Havisham and Estella never sat in a kitchen, but were far above the level of such common things.
I was truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should never like Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.
I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella's reproach.
…as Joe and Biddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I became quite gloomy. Dissatisfied with my fortune, of course I could not be; but it is possible that I may have been, without quite knowing it, dissatisfied with myself.
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.
"Oh, there are many kinds of pride," said Biddy, looking full at me and shaking her head; "Pride is not all of one kind…[Joe] may be too proud to let any one take him out of a place that he is competent to fill, and fills well and with respect."
"...it is a principle of [Matthew Pocket's] that no man who was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner. He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the wood, and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself."
…[Mrs. Pocket] had grown up highly ornamental, but perfectly helpless and useless.
"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."
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.
…the wonderful difference between the servile manner in which [Mr. Pumblechook] had offered his hand in my new prosperity, saying, "May I?" and the ostentatious clemency with which he had just now exhibited the same fat five fingers.
Dear Joe, I hope you will have children to love, and that some little fellow will sit in this chimney-corner, of a winter night, who may remind you of another little fellow gone out of it forever. Don't tell him, Joe, that I was thankless; don't tell him, Biddy, that I was ungenerous and unjust; only tell him that I honoured you both because you were both so good and true, and that, as your child, I said it would be natural to him to grow up a much better man than I did.
We owed so much to Herbert's ever cheerful industry and readiness that I often wondered how I had conceived the old idea of his inaptitude, until I was one day enlightened by the reflection that perhaps the inaptitude had never been in him at all, but had been in me.
"…now, when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape."