Background.

Great Expectations
  • In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice‘ is a quotation from Great Expectations (Chapter 8).

Context.

In this quote, the main character and narrator, Pip, reflects on how harsh his upbringing has been as a child. Both Pip’s parents died when he was very young, leaving his older sister to look after him. His sister, referred to in the novel as Mrs. Joe, was cruel to Pip and would beat him.

Pip has just been reduced to tears by the cruel Estella, who has placed a mug down on the stones in front of him “as if I were a dog in disgrace”. This humiliation has rekindled sensitive feelings of his upbringing.

Charles Dickens wrote a number of references to children feeling injustice. In his own upbringing he felt he was unfairly treated, particularly by his Mother, who made him continue work at Warren’s Blacking Factory instead of getting an education, even after the family’s debt issues were resolved.

Image of Estella and Pip in later life, reflecting on their friendship.
Illustration of Estella and Pip in later life, reflecting on their friendship.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 8 of Great Expectations:

My sister’s bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. Within myself, I had sustained, from my babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice. I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me. I had cherished a profound conviction that her bringing me up by hand gave her no right to bring me up by jerks. Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts, and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed this assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and unprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally timid and very sensitive.

Characters.

Philip Pirrip (Pip).

Philip Pirrip, called Pip, is the protagonist and narrator in Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations. He is amongst the most popular characters in English literature. Pip narrates his story many years after the events of the novel take place, starting as a young orphan boy being raised by his sister and brother-in-law in the marshes of north Kent. The novel follows Pip’s progress from childhood innocence to adulthood, where we see a financial and social rise. But these fortunes are offset by an emotional and moral deterioration, which forces Pip to recognise his negative expectations in a new self-awareness.

My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

Opening lines of Great Expectations.
  • In screen adaptations of Great Expectations, the character of Pip has been played by such actors as Jack Pickford (1917 film), John Mills (1946 film), Michael York (1974 TV movie), and Ioan Gruffudd (1999 TV movie).

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In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.

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