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Title After reading ‘Great Expectations’
Poster Michael Joo Date 2020-07-01 Visit 655

Michael Joo (11th grade)

When I first opened this book, I perceived this book as a typical novel, which doesn’t require contemplation, yet after finishing the book, it left me with numerous values and inquiries. Great Expectations is a novel written by Charles Dickens. Pip, the main character of this novel, is an ambitious person and encounters countless obstacles in his life. He has several life stages - innocence, failure and maturity. When he was innocent, he didn’t understand the distinct social hierarchy. However, after Miss Havisham’s rejection to marrying Estella, his innocence is lost, and his ambition begins to grow. In the second step of his life, his determination towards a higher social status climaxes. A stranger gives Pip a great expectation, and Pip spends all of his money to pursue it, without considering the repercussions. Lastly in the third step of his life, Pip realizes his mistakes and reflects upon himself, already corrupted and with astronomical debt. I confess that I have many similarities with Pip. Like Pip, I know that I am ambitious. Reflecting on it, I think ambition always starts with the same reason as Pip.

“…as Joe and Biddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I become quite gloomy. Dissatisfied with my fortune, of course, I could not be, but it is possible that I may have been, without quite knowing dissatisfied with myself.” 

This is one of the quotes that stimulated Pip’s ambition: his abhorrence of himself and the desire of reputation.

My ambition also started similarly. My family or friends who were talking about my shortcomings have always stimulated me to achieve more, gain recognition and no longer hear these words again. I wanted to show them my potential and aptness. I’m sure everyone has ambitions, which can be both an impulse towards success, but also a driving force to failure. As for myself, I regard my ambition as a diving force to failure. I regard it as an ardent desire for rank, fame or power. For instance, I always have to get a reward in any extracurricular activities that I participate in. Whenever I register for an activity, I start only with the feelings of great excitement and anticipation. However, as the competition approaches, my ambition to get a reward and to do better than others, which is settled deep inside my heart, starts to grow. And after competitions where I failed to get a reward, my conflicting emotions start to flush out of my mouth. This kind of ambition not only impeded my growth but also gave a negative influence on my surroundings. For example, Pip’s life completely collapsed. But with me perceiving this issue earlier than Pip, I know that if I don’t solve this egocentric problem now, it can and will only get worse. Thus, in order to diminish this problem, I began contemplating my perception of extracurricular activities and also stopped having the mindset of wanting to be better than others. I began reconsidering the reason why I attend competitions.

Is it for brightening my resume, or is it for my personal growth? After reflecting, I realized that every time I attend a competition, no matter what the result, I always have learned something precious through it. The result of the competitions gave just a momentary happiness, but the process and experiences were lifelong lessons. Some examples of how I grew are seen in the progress in my English proficiency, the significance of teamwork to me and a trivial but a closer step towards achieving my vision. And this is now the reason why I participate in competitions. I want to develop myself through it. I would not let my ambition outweigh my reasons for participating in competitions, since it just drives me away from my original purpose of participating. Once my ambition takes over my reason for participating, I won’t have the opportunity to learn through it but be overwhelmed with greed.

While reading this book, I learned that people shouldn’t live base on their ambition. When we think that ambition is controlling us, we should struggle to escape from it or seek support from others to break away from it. Because excessive ambition will eventually lead to an irreversible tragedy. As closure, I would like to share a quote that captures my lesson from this book with everyone.

“Ambition is not itself an evil: nor is he to be condemned whose spirit prompts him to seek fame by worthy and honorable ways”

– Francesco Guicciardini. 

Please remember that we all could have ambition, but we should never let ambition have authority over us.

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