History has given birth to a myriad of eras. These have enriched our past in their own unique way. It has had strong impressions on the society, culture, and beliefs of its time. However, its most prominent influence has perhaps been on contemporary literature. This influence is especially noticeable in English author Charles Dickens" acclaimed novel, "Great Expectations".
The impression of the Victorian perception of a "gentleman" has been incorporated in this novel. During this Age, a true gentleman was characterized by his virtues and not his gentiltiy. He was capable of maintaining a delicate balance between social and moral features. He was a noble and honorable man - a man who had fine ethical values. In his novel Dickens questions the traits of a gentleman through the various characters. He challenges the role of birth, upbringing, and good manners in the making of a gentleman. This is evident in the case of Herbert Pocket. Despite his social status, refined upbringing, and quality education, he is also a man of sound ideals. He teaches Pip correct table manners not in a superior conduct but as an equal. This trait makes him a gentleman. The views of Herbert and Matthew Pocket are an illustration of an authentic Victoran gentleman. According to them:.
"no man who was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner." (Great Expectation: p.204).
Pip himself also undergoes a metamorphosis towards the end of the novel, when he realizes how faithful Joe and Biddy have always supported him. The ideals which had been implanted in young Pip are renewed in him as an adult. Hence Dickens keeps in accordance with Victorian society by helping his main character realize his dream of becoming a gentleman not through society, but through sound principles. In short, the idea of a "gentleman" as depicted in the novel has been influenced by the contemprary idea of a gentleman in the Victorian Age.