Near the beginning of the book, a young girl named Estella catches the eye of Pip, who is poor orphan under the care of his abusive sister, and throughout the story, he attempts to sway her into falling in love with him. Unfortunately, she has been raised since the age of three to break men's hearts. Estella, in a display of accidental cold-heartedness, allows Pip to give her a kiss on the cheek after Pip wins a fight. However, Pip feels as if "that the kiss was given to the coarse common boy as a piece of money might have been, and that it was worth nothing" (94). The idea that it was a kiss out of pity was implanted into Pip and thus is ashamed that she looks at him as a lower person. This ignites a cause for self-improvement within him and he begins a journey to become worthy of Estella's love. Pip, even as an adult, continues to strive to become a gentleman and he finds himself doing almost anything he can in order to do so. Four years into an apprenticeship with his brother-in-law, he receives a fortune from an anonymous benefactor and is to "come into a handsome property ... be immediately removed from his present sphere of life and from this place, and be brought up as a gentleman-in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations" (137) Dickens uses this sudden change in the plot as a way to propel the idea that Pip has great expectations of himself that he now has an opportunity to achieve. The words Dickens uses creates a negative connotation around where Pip financially is prior to receiving the fortune; which further fuels Pip's strong desire to become a gentleman. Pip assumes that the benefactor is the mother of Estella and that she plots to prepare him for marriage however he later discovers that it was an ex-convict, named Magwitch, that he had previously helped live. Later on in the story, Magwitch is put to death and due to the felony that he was convicted of, his assets were forfeited which caused Pip's great expectations to dismantle. This change in the plot creates an environment perfect for Dickens to make Pip have different views on life. Pip begins to realize that money and education aren't the only things that make someone a gentleman. Pip, thinking to himself, began to realize that "For now, my repugnance to him 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" (423). After going through the social classes, from poverty-stricken to elite, Pip begins to realize that lack of money and education don't mean more than social conscience and morals. Dickens visualizes this by showing how Pip's brother-in-law is someone he looks up to despite not being in an elite social class.
Does social class equate to happiness? Well, according to this story told by Charles Dickens, it's no. The saying goes, "Money can't buy you happiness."; this is only to a certain extent according to a study done by CNBC.
This graph reveals that as income increases, how valuable people perceive their life as increases as well. However, it is only at a certain point that this spike occurs as, before that, life evaluation and lack of stress is still minimal pre-80K income. In the way Pip perceives his life, he isn't truly happy until he realizes that money won't necessarily mean he will be happy in his life and he discovers that one's morals and kindness elevate them to a new level of bliss.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Barnes & Noble Classics. 1861