Great Expectations

Pip’s Evolution as a Muscular Character College

Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectation is recognized as one of the most important examples of bildungsroman, that is, a “novel of personal development or education” of its main character (Rau). In this novel, using a first-person narrative, Dickens tells the story of Pip and how he evolves from being an almost illiterate child who lives a life of struggles to a gentleman who is well-educated and economically comfortable. The scholar Nicholas Shrimpton, however, suggests that Pip’s self-discovery is also a fundamental characteristic of the Muscular Novel (140). Although Great expectation is commonly defined as a bildungsroman, due to Pip’s transformation, it can also be considered as a “muscular novel” (Shrimpton 125).

A muscular novel, according to Shrimpton, is a text in which the protagonist is not only a man who is well-educated and physically strong, but also extremely polite (125). Shrimpton claims that the protagonist of a muscular novel needs to be “manly,” “gentle,” and “genteel” (135). To fully understand this concept, it is important to analyze the three terms to determine the specific features that the character needs to have. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a manly man has or denote “those good qualities...

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