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Examine How Charles Dickens Portrays the Differences in Social Class of Mrs. Joe Gargery and Miss Havisham.

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Introduction

Examine How Charles Dickens Portrays the Differences in Social Class of Mrs. Joe Gargery and Miss Havisham During the 19th century, Britain was entering a new era. The reign of Queen Victoria had brought about many exciting propositions, with industry leading the way at the forefront. Due to the Industrial Revolution and the fact that Britain was being ruled by a woman, the action of 'Great Expectations' was occurring against the backdrop of major social and cultural changes. Although Britain, as a whole, was becoming exceedingly richer, the Industrial Revolution that was taking place also spawned great poverty. The working conditions in the factories were deplorable. Child labour was prevalent and the slums of large cities, such as London, bred transgression, crime and disease. Only men of property had the right to vote, so the proletariats were excluded from the political system, impeding the aristocrats to take any action on the matters of lower classed citizens. Women had few rights and little choice but to marry and upon doing so everything they owned, inherited and earned automatically belonged to their husband. It was in this underside of society and the injustices of life in Victorian Britain that Charles Dickens' found the material for his novels. These injustices are exactly what link Mrs. Joe Gargery, a downtrodden and poor blacksmith's wife, to Miss Havisham, an 'immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house'. Mrs. Joe Gargery and Miss Havisham may be of totally divergent classes, but they both suffer the detriments of life in Victorian Britain. Although Mrs. Joe Gargery and Miss Havisham are quite idiosyncratic and eccentric characters, they are both examples of very inexorable and domineering women. The eccentricities of Mrs. Joe Gargery are evident right from the beginning of the novel. Mrs. Gargery was spoken about only through her husbands' name during the whole of the novel. ...read more.

Middle

However, her change in behaviour was due to the effects of her injuries, both mentally and physically, Orlick had inflicted. In my opinion, Charles Dickens had several reasons why he portrayed Mrs. Joe Gargery in this way. Firstly, I think Mrs' Gargery's violent behaviour created more sympathy from the reader towards Pip. As Dickens himself was of a poor background, he always made sure people knew just how hard life was, and he used his novels as ways of campaigning for better living and working conditions especially for young children. The second reason is for a similar reason. Dickens' commonly spoke well about the poor in his stories, for example David Copperfield, Pip and Oliver Twist, so I think Mrs. Gargery was a contrast, to show people that not all poor people in his stories are nice. Thirdly, the derogatory treatment of both Pip and Joe by Mrs. Gargery helped to bring them together and make the reader understand their strong friendship bond. Without the disparaging treatment of them both, Pip would have been unable to find solace from her rages in Joe, as they wouldn't be united under a common oppression. Another reason is to covertly hint at Mrs. Gargery's desire to ascend the social class ladder. This is done by her meticulous cleaning and task routine. Mrs. Gargery yearns to be in a better social class, and in order to make herself feel more aristocratic, she makes sure her house is perfectly tidy and she does everything as well as possible. For example, in one part, Dickens' goes into great detail, describing how she butters her bread. "My sister had a trenchant way of cutting our bread-and-butter for us, that never varied....First, with her left hand, she jammed the loaf hard and fast against her bib. Then, she took some butter (not too much) on a knife and spread it on the loaf, in an apothecary kind of way, as if she were making a plaister - using both sides of the knife with a slapping dexterity, and trimming and moulding the butter off round the crust. ...read more.

Conclusion

Yet what is more ironic is that Miss Havisham does not praise herself for the good deed. In the beginning of the novel, Miss Havisham displayed a harsh, cold attitude towards Pip. This is displayed when she says "Well, you can break his heart?" Miss Havisham's house was ironically called 'Satis House' meaning 'satisfaction' although it provides no satisfaction for Miss Havisham. The crumbling, dilapidated stones of the house, as well as the darkness and dust that pervade it, symbolize the general decadence of the lives of its inhabitants and of the upper class as a whole. Miss Havisham's character is changing throughout. In the beginning of the novel, she is hell-bent on revenge, because she was jilted on her wedding day by Compeyson. She adopts Estella and makes sure they have no heart and then trains them to break the hearts of men. "I stole her heart away and put ice in its place." Then, she realises what she has done to Estella. When she understands it is as bad as what was done to her, she asks for forgiveness. Due to her positive change, she becomes more likeable to the audience. She is dumbfounded and destroyed, beyond the point of repair, and her quirky and peculiar idiosyncrasies fade away. Dickens' chose two very different female characters, which both helped and hindered Pips journey to becoming a gentlemen. In my opinion, I think Dickens' created these characters to show that in both ends of the social spectrum, there are still people who are not happy. Dickens' intended message about women that he tried to portray in this book is mixed. In Mrs Joe Gargery, he shows strength and dominance over men, where as in Miss Havisham, he shows total dependence on men, and we see her world fall to pieces without one. I think he decided to use such extreme characters to help readers understand and realise that not all women are the same. They can vary from being confident and domineering, to being dependant on others and very impressionable. Hayley Lloyd-Henry 10R ...read more.

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