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Charles Dickens views about class in the novel, "Great Expectations".

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Introduction

English Prose Study Charles Dickens views about class in the novel, "Great Expectations" The novel, "Great Expectations" is deemed to be one of the greatest English classic novels of the literary heritage. Charles Dickens, the author of Great Expectations is thought to be one of history's finest writers and has contributed to English literature in many ways. `Great Expectations' is Dickens' thirteenth novel and is based loosely on his own experiences. He did this with many of his novels, including his partly auto-biographical piece, "David Copperfield" (with Dickens's own negligent mother and father being closely depicted in his character, David's parents). "All the Year Round" was a magazine that Charles Dickens had founded. In late 1860, the sales of the magazine were dropping, and so Dickens began publishing "Great Expectations" in the magazine in December to increase sales. "Great Expectations" displays many of Dickens's ideas and views which were the results of experiences in his life. Dickens's family was never well off and in fact, John Dickens, Charles Dickens's father, was sent to Marshalsea Debtors Prison when Charles Dickens was only twelve. As was the tradition in those days, Charles Dickens was sent, along with the rest of his family to work in a factory to help repay his father's debt. This changed the way he viewed poverty and this view is displayed in "Great Expectations". The story evolves around the life of Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, who is the protagonist and the narrator. We meet him as a young boy who one day encounters an escaping convict and helps him. He then grows up to have `great expectations' as an unknown benefactor provides him with the luxuries of a gentleman's life, of which Pip has dreamt, since meeting the beautiful and apparently upper-class Estella. This story deals with life in the Victorian times; crime and punishment, social status, prejudice and love - all of these issues apply even now. ...read more.

Middle

Pip may have realised that his reaction toward Magwitch as his benefactor was unfair (like he realises with his other childhood speculations) and understands that Magwitch did genuinely love him. Magwitch dies before the hanging and, soon after his death; Pip falls ill and is taken back to the marshes to the care of Joe and Biddy. Pip recovers and is the changed man who tells the story. Pip realised that one's social position is not as important as he thought. He recognized that his attitude as a wealthy "gentleman" caused him to reject those who loved him the most. Once Pip learns these lessons, he becomes the Pip who is narrating the story. Miss Havisham is a wealthy lady whose success came from the brewery attached to Satis House. The house itself is in decay, since the day Miss Havisham was forsaken on her wedding day, by Compeyson, a man who only used her for her wealth. The fact that she was able to "stop time" in the manor is a sign of her fortune. She is able to afford to keep the house the same as it was. Miss Havisham is from the upper-class, though she was not born into aristocracy. Her decaying house perhaps mirrors her own gradual destruction. After being jilted, Miss Havisham sought to wreak revenge upon all men by adopting and using Estella as a tool. She raised Estella out of her own selfish desires to hurt the men who fall in love with her beauty. She encourages Estella to "break men's hearts" and Pip was just someone for Estella to practise on. Her plan was extremely cruel and ruined various lives, including her own. Though I understand that she may have felt hostile towards men, there was no reason to involve others and destroy their lives, for her own feelings. Being left at the altar on her wedding day must have been a traumatic experience, and though I believe no-one should go through that shame, I do not believe that influencing someone to grow up to have the same views as her is at all right. ...read more.

Conclusion

Money cannot earn the real things that matter in life. Real love, friendship and happiness can't be bought by any amount of money one can produce and this message applies to us today as much as it did back then. Dickens wrote a very powerful novel about love, social class and morality. He demonstrates the complexity of love and the arbitrary nature of class. Love is a difficult thing to understand and social class should have little importance in life. In Dickens's time, many people saw that the only way to succeed in life was to climb up the social ladder. He displayed this ambition in characters such as Pip, Mrs. Joe and Herbert Pocket. Dickens wanted to show people that this was not the case, as Joe, who did not believe this idea, ends up the happiest but has remained in the same class throughout the novel. The current and previous Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and John Major sought to create a `class-less' society. This would mean that everyone would be able to socialise with each other and that no form of prejudice against money and background would exist. This is a difficult goal to obtain, as it is part of human nature to have prejudice in some form, though some may argue that it is taught. I think that some prejudice is natural, though most is actually taught. A person may believe that they are superior to another because of wealth, and it is difficult to change the beliefs of a person. Even if the Prime Ministers abolished the term `class', the actual behaviour would still exist because the money is still there. I do agree with Dickens's message on class, as I feel that class is not an important feature in life. I think we should not be separated by something as petty as class, but even though many may share my views, there will always be those who believe in superiority and that alone can divide us into classes. ...read more.

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