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To what extent is ' Great Expectations' the story of an individual or an exploration of Victorian society?

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'Great Expectations' is a novel, which represents class society amongst the rich, the poor and the criminal in Victorian England. Using the life of the main character in the novel, Pip; Charles Dickens challenges issues like youth treatment, injustices in the legal system and the discriminations between the classes. As the novel progresses, various events happen to Pip, which makes him more aware of the reality he is living in. Some of these situations change his attitude towards his life and expectations. This makes him more determined and at times angry and upset. In the beginning chapter we are introduced to Pip and find out that he had lost his parents and five brothers. It was not unusual for a child to have lost a family member during the Victorian times. The most common reason for this was due to the lack of development in medicine and science. Back then many of the simple diseases nowadays, were not so curable or even if they were they were not very accessible for the lower class. Dickens use of description of settings and characters in this particular chapter and also throughout the novel, effects what the readers think. For example when Dickens describes the way the gravestones are lined up in the graveyard while Pip stares at them; we really get a sense of the atmosphere and almost feel sorry for him. ...read more.


'...She put the mug down on the stones of the yard, and gave me the bread and meat without looking at me, as insolently as if I were a dog in disgrace. I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, and sorry- I can not hit upon...' [Page 58] The above quotation is the comments from the narrator of the novel who in this case is the older Pip. Dickens does this throughout the novel and it gives a comparison between how he felt about the incidents when he was young and how he feels now that he is much older and mature. In the Victorian society and even now, many wealthy and rich people tend to think that because they can easily access and gain what they want, they are strong and powerful. When Pip and Herbert meet each other for the first time and 'play fight' a very significant message is reinforced; Herbert, a rich wealthy young boy (same aged as Pip), picks a fight with Pip, a 'common labouring boy'. Meanwhile Estella watching the fight sees Herbert, who thinks he is though and hard, get knocked out three times by Pip who is in her eyes seen just as a 'common labouring boy'. Here Dickens has shown that strength is not only about wealth and that you can be just as better to impress without. ...read more.


In certain parts of the novel, Dickens portrays his views on the unfairness of the Victorian legal system. He criticises the injustices in the trials and cases of such small crimes being punished with serious sentences, without detailed and reasonable enquiries. He uses Magwitch's character to represent this in the beginning and in towards the end. When Pip as a young boy helps out the convict and ask her sister questions, we find out that one of the punishments for criminals who steel or do such crime is to be sent away to Australia to stay permanently never to return, otherwise the consequences of you returning were to be hanged. When Magwitch returned back 'Illegally' after a couple of years, when he got caught he was sentenced to death but died from illness anyway. The novel is very significant, in the sense that it uses the characters and the storyline to portray the views and opinions of a highly known writer, on the important issues that are fundamental for the running of a society at the time, and the problems that they can create. Overall, I think that 'Great Expectation', is a novel that tells the story of a young boy's expectations from life in a society, which is unable to easily accept change in such a demanding system. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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