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The strained relationships, resentment and indignation between the classes in Great Expectations

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Introduction

Great expectations is a profound story. It contains the theme of love, desire, foolishness, the relationship between a family, and so on. And the story also strongly represents social context and social force of Dickens's time. Dickens provides us with scathing insight into the social standard of the time. I'd like to consider English social class of Great expectations. The class system in England began with the introduction of feudalism which followed the Norman Conquest of 1066, and it has been the social standard for hundreds of years. The class system consists of an upper, middle and lower class. These classes and the differences between them are evident in the plot and interaction of the characters in Great Expectations. Dickens depicts severely the English class system, where the upper class is omnipotent, the middle class consists of those envious of the upper class, and the hard workers of the lower class who are unable to succeed due to their birth status. These injustices are personified through Miss Havisham, Mrs. Pocket and Magwitch, and I think they satirize the upper, middle and lower classes. Through colorful narrations and descriptions, these characters indicate the various classes of nineteenth century England. ...read more.

Middle

When the Pockets visit Miss Havisham, they feign affection so that they may be included in her will. The small middle class comprised of intellectuals and professionals, of whom Mr. Pocket was one as he had "been educated at Harrow and at Cambridge, where he had distinguished himself; but that when he had had the happiness of marrying Mrs Pocket very early in life, he had impaired his prospects and taken up the calling of a Grinder."(p190-191) The Pockets were a moderately well off family, but they would never be part of the aristocracy solely because they do not have a title to their name. But I think that Dickens think titles have less meaning, Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook were not as close to the upper class as the Pockets, nonetheless, their behaviour was indicative of their adulation of the upper class. For example, Mrs. Joe does not question the wishes of Miss Havisham when Miss Havisham calls Pip to come visit her; "she wants this boy to go play there. And of course he's going. And he had better play there."(p51) Mrs. Joe sends Pip into the strange place where he is treated terribly, but she sends him without questioning since Miss Havisham is the upper class. ...read more.

Conclusion

Pip referred to Magwitch as his "dreaded visitor" and was embarrassed of his uncouth manners and appearance. I think that Magwitch's success is Dickens's commentary against the socio-economical limitations of those in the lower class. In me opinion, through Magwitch's success Dickens claims that it was not the supposed inherent inferiority that inhibited his success, rather the unjust class system. The class system was unfair and restrictive to most of the people of England during Dickens's time. I'd like to tell that few members of the upper class were morally bankrupt despite their great material wealth. The middle classes adored the aristocrats of the upper class and sacrificed much self-dignity in order to be accepted by the upper class. The lower class were laveled from birth as being of lesser value than those of the upper and middle classes. The strained relationships, resentment and indignation between the classes is evident through the interactions of the characters in Great Expectations. These characters represent each social class in England, and the defining characteristics of the classes. Despite the ill feelings between classes, at the conclusion of the book we learn that happiness can be achieved on different levels, regardless of social stature and class. Dickens's brave message is one of hope for a future of greater social equality. ...read more.

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