Wemmick in “Great Expectations” Character Analysis

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In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens is able to establish characters who may not seem to be important to the overall plot, but who instead bring new and different elements that are essential to the overall impact the novel has on the reader. Wemmick is a character that is often disregarded when dealing with the overall plot, however, he brings a different, yet intriguing element to the story by the separation of his life at work and at home. His work and home lives are as different in physical appearances as they are in personality differences. The majority of his habits at home permit him to express his compassion and decency, which differs from his work life that lacks good virtues and principles. He focuses himself on making sure he separates his home and work life so that he can keep his virtues intact while he works for Jagger, specifically in the prison of Newgate. Wemmick’s successfulness in keeping his home and work lives separated distinguishes himself from the other characters in the novel. It is because of his dedication in separating his two lives and always making sure his good values are kept alive that make Wemmick is essential to the story.

In his work life, Wemmick has the minor position of a clerk in Mr. Jagger’s prominent office where he receives an adequate salary and connections. In order for him to keep his job, he is expected to act professionally while at the same time be emotionless and antagonistic to Jagger’s clients and the people he comes in contact with. As a matter of fact, Pip is the first person who realizes Wemmick acting in this manner. When Pip goes to Mr. Jagger’s office, “a new set of people [were] lingering outside, but Wemmick made a way among them by saying coolly yet decisively; ‘I tell you it’s no use; he won’t have a word to say to one of you” (Great Expectations, page 171). Wemmick’s portrayal of unmindful and rigid obedience to Mr. Jagger’s instructions is an indicator that he lacks feelings; although common at the time for males, Wemmick does not act like this all the time.

The reader’s initial reaction towards Wemmick’s behavior is that he takes his job very seriously and will do whatever it takes to keep it. However, in a respectful manner, he admits to Pip that Mr. Jaggers is “a wonderful man, without his living likeness; but I feel that I have to screw myself up when I dine with him-and I dine more comfortably unscrewed” (Great Expectations, page 392). It is certain that although Wemmick is fully aware of his actions, he feels that he must change the way he acts so that Mr. Jaggers does not replace him. The expectations of a man in a position like Wemmick forces the him to create a completely different personality, almost to the extent that he becomes a different person.

The differences can be seen when Pip joins a dinner with Jaggers and Wemmick and notices that Wemmick “was as dry and distant to [him] as if there were twin Wemmicks, and this was the wrong one” (Great Expectations, page 389). Pip sees Wemmick as two different people in one, the distant “twin” having a sturdy and professional mindset around Mr. Jaggers, and the favorable “twin” that is only present when the situation does not impact his business’ work. There is good in Wemmick, but his true self is only visible in his life completely outside the workplace.

The arrogant side of Wemmick is overshadowed when he returns to his “castle” like home. Wemmick lives a completely different life when he is at his home compared to at work. Since he is so far away from his workplace, Wemmick turns away from the pushy businessperson and becomes more of a “gentle man” who is naturally playful and kind to others. The first time Pip visits Wemmick’s “castle,” he is astonished to see him with so much enthusiasm saying, “it was very pleasant to see the pride with which he hoisted [the flag] up and made it fast; smiling as he did so, with relish and not merely mechanically” (Great Expectations, page 206).

Wemmick’s passion towards the disposition of his castle isn’t the only thing demonstrated here, but also his true spirit when he proudly shows off his invention to Pip. His home is a place of comfort and ease where he is free to be his genuine self, which doesn’t exist anywhere outside of his humble abode. It allows him to escape from the harsh work he engages every day and live the way he truly desires, not the mechanical robot that is forced to do whatever Mr. Jaggers commands. The most meaningful instance of Wemmick’s home life differing from that of his work life is how he behaves with his father.

When Wemmick introduces Pip to his father, the very first thing he does is ask Pip to give his father a nod since it was extremely hard for him to hear. He always made sure that people respected his father the same way they would respect a normal person. Wemmick would fire off his cannon at nine o’clock in the morning because it was the only thing loud enough to wake up his father. He would show care for his father even if it meant he had to do something that was inconvenient of his day. When Wemmick and Pip are together, he asks Pip to give his father more of the punch and proclaims, “You can’t think how it pleases him” (Great Expectations, page 208).

Wemmick instinctively goes above and beyond by showing his father the kind of care most people hope to someday achieve. Here, the reader is finally able to see Wemmick’s affection that is otherwise absent during his work life. He is more comfortable revealing this side of his personality at his home because he feels that it is the only place where society has no influence and he can break society’s so-called “rules” and show his not-so-tough-masculine emotions. Wemmick also portrays his true self with his father by what he does when he goes to work and his father is alone. Wemmick knew that he had to make sure his father couldn’t put himself in danger or let random strangers in their house when he went out.

In order to prevent this, he designed an invention that would let his father know if he, or his girlfriend, Miss Skiffins, was at the door. Wemmick not only shows his true self to his father, but also to the woman that he had an intimate relationship with, Miss Skiffins. He treated her with the kind of compassion that would be expected from a married couple. The way he regarded Miss Skiffins and their relationship is more evidence that his work life personality is just an act so that he doesn’t get replaced by Mr. Jaggers. Wemmick is a very interesting character who is a perfect example of how the way a person acts in their professional life can differ from the life they live at home.

By incorporating Wemmick’s character in Great Expectations, Dickens is able to bring to life and embody the precedents set of how men were obligated to act during the time of Great Expectations. He accomplishes the task of incorporating the troubling problem that society instilled upon workers which forced people to act in manners they did not like. London was an entirely different place than where Pip grew up, however, every place still has mainstream social cultures that can impact and change the way people go through their lives. Because Dickens intertwined Wemmick’s two different ways of life, he was able to demonstrate to the reader how clearly the extent the workplace can have on a person’s life and how it can completely change their life.

Cite this paper

Wemmick in “Great Expectations” Character Analysis. (2021, Oct 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/wemmick-in-great-expectations-character-analysis/

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