In both Jane Eyre and Great Expectations, the central character is an orphan, who helps articulate various social and moral conflicts in society. In both novels, the two orphans search for their identities and position within society. However, the difference in the gender of the two orphans emphasize the different aspirations of each of the two orphans. Whereas Jane Eyre seeks to be loved, Pip seeks social advancement, wealth, and the desire to be a "gentleman."".
In Great Expectations, the moral theme is quite simple: affection, loyalty, and conscience are more important than social advancement, wealth, and class. Dickens establishes the theme and shows Pip learning this lesson, largely by exploring ideas of ambition and self-improvement.
Ambition and self-improvement take two forms in Great Expectations "moral and social; these motivate Pip's best and his worst behavior throughout the novel. First, Pip desires moral self-improvement. He is extremely hard on himself when he acts immorally and feels powerful guilt that spurs him to act better in the future. When he leaves for London, for instance, he torments himself about having behaved so wretchedly toward Joe and Biddy. .
Second, Pip desires social self-improvement. In love with Estella, he longs to become a member of her social class, and, encouraged by Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook, he entertains fantasies of becoming a gentleman. The working out of this fantasy forms the basic plot of the novel; it provides Dickens the opportunity to gently satirize the class system of his era and to make a point about its capricious nature. Significantly, Pip's life as a gentleman is no more satisfying "and certainly no more moral "than his previous life as a blacksmith's apprentice. Ultimately, through the examples of Joe, Biddy, and Magwitch, Pip learns that social and educational improvement are irrelevant to one's real worth and that conscience and affection are to be valued above erudition and social standing.