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How "Great Expectations" Reflects The Values And Attitudes Of Its Time

1107 words - 5 pages

The text Great Expectations by Charles Dickens reflects many of the values and attitudes of nineteenth century England. The terms 'values' and 'attitude' are somewhat linked, and are both an integral part of the context of this novel. There was a great divide between the classes at the time of Great Expectations, with each class having its own stereotypical views. This difference led to crime in the city, which served the need for better punishment, as the justice system was quite arbitrary. Attitudes towards the difference between city and country life were also changing with the coming of Industrialisation. Each of these values and attitudes are depicted in the novel through the use of ...view middle of the document...

Money was also an important value and crucial aspect of class during the time of Great Expectations. We can see how much Magwitch valued class and wealth by his attempt to "buy" Pip into an upper class so that he (Pip) would have enough money to relax and enjoy a wealthy life. Indeed, the idea of a convict making someone rich is an example of situation irony constructed by Dickens into the plot. Through character development and the narratorial perspective of the novel, we then see how Pip believes that this will allow him to "escape" his lower class and marry Estella from an upper class, "perhaps now... she would think twice about me". However this merely leads Pip to snobbery and a wasteful life, and we see how he eventually returns to his lower class. Pip had false expectations and allusions about class, and hence, Dickens has shown that money is not the only barrier between classes, as Pip was for the most part unsuccessful in making the transition.As crime escalated in the nineteenth century the need for an improved legal system arose, however the justice system proved to be quite arbitrary. Those who fell into the arms of the law received little mercy - harsh retribution was the stock-in-trade of a perverse, tyrannical and unforgiving legal system. One of Pip's first encounters in London, with the minister of justice is an example of symbolism, "exceedingly dirty and partially drunk", indicative of the corruption of the legal system and the many injustices to come in Great Expectations.. An example of this injustice of the justice system in the novel can be through the character Jaggers who fixes up evidence to win cases. This is reflective of society at the time, where people with more money could "buy" justice by hiring pricy lawyers such as Jaggers to manipulate the case for them. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that Jaggers washes his hands after every trial, which signifies his guilt of causing injustice. This can be viewed as a literary allusion to Lady Macbeth, where in the play 'Macbeth' she tries to wash...

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