Dickens Life Reflected In The Character Of Pip

991 words - 4 pages

Both Miss Havisham and Magwitch are two key characters who shape Pip’s life and dreams. Pip himself is a young boy whose story reflects that of Charles Dickens, the author. When Dickens was twelve his father was imprisoned for debt, much like Magwitch- the father-figure in Pip’s life who was also a convict. Dickens was then sent to work at a boot-blacking factory where his mother forced him to work even after his father was released. Similarly, neither Mrs Joe nor Miss Havisham (the mother-figures) treated Pip well. Later, Dickens fell in love with Maria Beadnell but she rejected him- she is reflected in Estella who cruelly rejected Pip for much time. In 1875, the forty-five year old Dickens fell in love with eighteen year old Ellen Ternan though he never dared to tell the public about her. The happiness that could have been his is reflected in the comfortably married. As well as reflecting aspects of Dickens’s life, ‘Great Expectations’ also reflected the key social, historical and cultural influences of the time. These include the issue of ambition- a man could improve his station in life if he worked hard enough. This idea of a ‘self-made man’ was popular in the nineteenth century. The layers of social class also played a vital part in Victorian life and its effects and influence can clearly be seen in Pip’s life. Along with the social hierarchy came social problems- there was a special notice of the condition of the poor and the idea of social reform was becoming recognisable, Dickens appears to have been a supporter of social reform. Family and social connections including the church played a big role in people’s lives. They are all acknowledged in ‘Great Expectations.’
Dickens introduces Magwitch in the first chapter of the book which is domineered by this daunting character. Magwitch appeared in a deserted churchyard in the ‘dark, flat wilderness’. This setting is very much like the character himself; wild and unkempt. We are told he is a ‘fearful man, all in coarse grey with an iron on his leg.’ He is plain and roughened with the mark of what could have been a prison uniform and a constant reminder of his sinning. He is a man with ‘no hat and with broken shoes and with an old rag tied round his head.’ He is evidently ill bred and lacking social status of any recognisable kind- hence, the absence of a hat. The rag could be his makeshift replacement for a hat in an attempt to create some illusion of respect for himself. There is evidence he has travelled a lot in his ‘broken shoes.’ We learn he has ‘been soaked in water…teeth chattering in his head.’ He is lame, wet, dirty, stung, cut and ripped with fairly obvious injuries which indicate he has been through a lot of hardship. His damaged physical condition is represented by his character which seems...

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