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Chapter One And Thirty Nine Of Great Expectations

1657 words - 7 pages

Compare chapter 1 of Great Expectations, in which Pip first meets the
convict, with chapter 39, when the convict returns.

Charles Dickens is considered to be one of the greatest English
novelists of the Victorian period. This greatest of Victorian writers
was born in Landport, Portsmouth, on February 7, 1812. His father John
worked as a clerk in the Navy Payroll Office in Portsmouth. It was his
personal experience of factory work and the living conditions of the
poor that created in Dickens the compassion, which was to mark his
literary works. Dickens's works are characterized by attacks on social
evils, injustice, and hypocrisy. Great expectations was Charles
Dickens’ second to last complete novel. It was first published as a
weekly series in 1860 and in book form 1861. Throughout great
expectations, Dickens explores the class system of Victorian England,
ranging from the most wretched criminals (Magwich) to the poor
peasants of the marsh country (Joe and Biddy) to the middle class
(Pumblechook) to the very rich (miss Havisham). The theme of social
class is central to the novel’s plot and to the essential moral theme
of the book. Pip’s realisation that wealth and class are less
important than affection, loyalty and inner worth. Pip achieves this
realisation when he is finally able to understand that, despite the
admiration in which he holds Estella, one’s social status is in no way
connected to one’s real character.

Perhaps the most important aspect to remember about the novels
conduct of social class is that the class system it portrays is based
on the industrial revolution of Victorian England. Many of the wealthy
characters such as Miss Havisham there fortunes have been earned
through commerce. Miss Havisham’s family fortune was made through the
brewery that is still connected to her manor. In this way by
connecting the theme of social class to the idea of work and
self-progression, Dickens subtly reinforces the novel’s overshadowing
theme of ambition and self-improvement.

For thousands of years, families put their children to work on their
farms or in whatever labour was necessary for survival – only children
of the wealthy and powerful escaped this fate. Until the last one
hundred years or so, children were considered by most societies to be
the property of their parents. They had little protection from
governments who viewed children as having no human or civil rights
outside of their parents’ wishes, and Great Expectations brings some
of these conditions to light. In the 19th Century children were
horrendously mistreated as they were sent to work in dirty, odious
factories from the age of 10. At the time orphanages did not exist so
people for odd jobs, who paid them just enough to survive, hired
orphans. Convicted criminals were also much neglected at this time.
Dickens picked up on this and decided that society needed to change,
so Dickens wrote this novel, not only to earn a living and...

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