Jane Austen's Great Expectations
Great Expectations is a story about the impact that money can have on
people's lives. Money can change anybody and Pip was no exception.
When Pip is poor he truly wants to be a gentleman, he has "great
expectations" for himself. He loses friends, family and parts of
himself all to be a true gentleman and forgets about the true values
of life. Eventually he realises that letting money rule your life can
have harmful effects. There are many themes that run through this
novel. One important theme is class and status. During the Victorian
times, class played a huge part in society and throughout the novel
the strict class system is conveyed. An example of where this is shown
is when Pip is embarrassed that his benefactor was Magwitch, a
convict. This shows that someone who is high up in society does not
want anything to do with someone in the lower class.
Another theme is about things that make a perfect Victorian gentleman.
A Victorian gentleman would have had to have the following qualities.
He would have to be mannerable, well dressed, educated, wealthy, have
a nice house, have servants and come from a good background. Another
theme is crime and punishment. Punishment in the Victorian times was
very harsh. We see this when we hear about Magwitch. When we see him
on the marshes, he is in a very bad condition. We also see that at the
end of the story Magwitch is going to be hanged for returning to
Britain from Australia. Small crimes were seen as huge matters a thief
could receive seven years transportation to Australia. Children that
were "at the risk" of becoming involved in criminal activity could be
sent to a school which would provide education which would then
prevent them from going into crime. The punishment for murder was a
hanging. Nowadays you would just be sent to jail. In some cases,
people could be sentenced to death for what we would think of as minor
offences. For example, the death sentence could be passed for pick
pocketing or stealing bread.
Transportation was one of the most common punishments followed by
imprisonment on the hulks. In one year, about 160,000 people were sent
to Australia. Many of these people died on the journey, which took
between four to six months. If they survived they were sent to work as
servants or labourers.
Great Expectations is like a fairy tale with a difference. I think
this because it contains the literary tradition from "rags to riches"
but with a twist. Fairy tales like Cinderella also contain this
literary tradition where she changes from being poor to being rich and
living happily ever after. Pip starts off being poor and by the middle
of the play he is very rich and respected. The twist is that at the
end of the novel Pip is no longer rich but he has gained a lot of