One of the most important themes in “Great Expectations” is the idea of what makes the perfect gentleman. Dickens presents this idea through the adventures of Pip and how he develops his idea of what a true gentleman is. His first image of a gentleman is purely based on what their appearance is, such as Cousin Raymond and Jaggers on Miss Havisham’s birthday, and then he calls Herbert “the pale young gentleman”.
These presumptions are not based on personality, yet towards the end of the book, he does not respect Herbert or Magwitch due to their appearance, but because he has realised that a true gentleman has many more qualities than just a good outward appearance. However, Pip’s initial impressions of a gentleman are of a person who is wealthy and affluent. When Pip first meets a gentleman, Cousin Raymond at Satis House on Miss Havisham’s birthday, he describes him and three other ladies as “toadies and humbugs”.
Here, Dickens presents them as very unpleasant characters and makes the reader hate them from the start. This effect is created by how he first presents them as boring (“the ladies had to speak quite rigidly to repress a yawn”), and then they look down at Pip (“they all looked at me with the utmost contempt”). Here Dickens seemed to be sending out the message that not all so-called “gentlemen” are necessarily polite or well-mannered. Furthermore, Pip’s next meeting with a gentleman is not pleasant either. When Pip first meets Jaggers, on the same day, Pip does not take a liking to him either.
Dickens presents him as a bossy type of person, suggested by the language which Jaggers uses whilst talking to Pip. He first asks him “Boy of the neighbourhood? ” This implies that Jaggers thinks less of Pip; as inferior to him. This is incredibly rude of Jaggers, who also suggests that he is like an object, by referring to him by a bad “set” of fellows. Jaggers would definitely be considered a gentleman by the Victorians at that time. As he himself mentions, he is “pretty well known” and is very wealthy. Here Dickens presents him as a snob who is simply showing off.
However, Jaggers would simply not be considered a gentleman in a more modern society as he is definitely not caring or loving or even slightly kind. This is shown by the way in which he only wants a yes or no answer and that when someone doesn’t, he very rudely interrupts and asks them again. For example, when he is talking to his clients, he asks one of them if they have paid Wemmick yet. When that person doesn’t answer yes or no, Jaggers tells them that “I don’t ask you when you have made it up… Have you paid Wemmick? ” This instantly shows the true character of Jaggers as a selfish person who always gets what he wants.