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Portrayal Of The Victorian Era In Great Expectations

1665 words - 7 pages

Written during the Victorian Era (1850-1900) Charles Dickens's Great Expectations has echoes of Victorian Morality all throughout the novel. When looked up in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, morality is defined as "the evaluation of or means of evaluating human conduct as a set of ideas of right and wrong and as a set of customs of a given society, class, or social groups which regulate relationships and prescribes modes of behavior to enhance the groups survival." Although the Victorian Era occurred over one hundred years ago, the given definition is clearly portrayed through the use of several morally different characters. These characters are shown over a lengthy period of time and at many different stages in their life, both developmentally and morally.

Virtue, strength, thrift, manners, cleanliness, honesty and chastity are only a few of the morals Victorians held in high esteem. Through each of the characters created by Dickens these morals can be seen either in good working or not at all. The dynamic, main character, Pip, goes through several changes and deals with various moral issues. Joe and Biddy are static characters throughout the entire novel and appear to be the embodiment of what ideal Victorians should be. Estella, the woman whom Pip believes he loves, is an example of a woman with the potential to be morally good turned morally bad. Miss Havisham, a morally corrupt woman seems to be the center for all bad morality.

Pip begins as a young boy, innocent without any moral corrupt. Pip steals food and a file from his sister and uncle to carry out the orders of a convict he stumbles across in the marshes. Knowing that it is disrespectful to disregard the orders of an elder, whether they are right or wrong, Pip is caught up in a moral dilemma. Stealing is certainly nothing to be proud of or boastful about, but for fear of his life he must follow the convict's commands. Pip is an honest boy who can barely live with himself after what he has done, but never tells Joe his good friend, or Ms. Joe, Joe's wife.

The class system becomes a focal point in young Pip's life. Pip first began to think about his place in society when he was sent to visit the wealthy, old lady, Miss Havisham at her mansion. Through these visits Pip becomes socially conscious and begins to dislike his commonality. Almost instantly he wants to become uncommon. The adopted daughter of Miss Havisham, Estella, becomes a focal point and goal for Pip to obtain. Any morality Pip used to have slips away with each visit. Pip walks in circles in a barely lit room with Miss Havisam holding onto his shoulder and in doing so, Pip is somehow leaving behind all the values he was raised with. Miss Havisham and Estella end up corrupting Pip with the rich life. Greed, beauty and hubris are Pips downward spiral into an immoral life. Pip finds Estella very attractive, but Estella calls him common and this does not sit well with Pip. All of Pip's...

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