Themes in Great Expectations Essay Example
Throughout Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations, the readers can experience many different class systems, criminal activity, and dynamic personalities as the mysterious plot unfolds. Crime in the 1860s, Victorian Era, was very different from how it is today. Punishments are more severe, more public, and more common. Prisoners of various classes were stowed away on prison hulks which lugged them around as portable passengers.
Crime exists as a destructive force in the plot. It flows into the idea of people being categorized as their mistakes and classes, even though, in the end, everything might not be what it seems. Pip discovers the hidden lives of Newgate prison to the love of a criminal in which he once feared for his life. Dickens shows impeccable insight into this topic as he describes the depths of where the London criminals reside and the doubtful, tedious working of the criminal justice system.
Some characters in this novel grow up never having a chance. For example, Magwitch. His first memory was stealing turnips, and his rap sheet is a mile long. It is no surprise to anyone reading this book that he eventually succumbs and dies in a jail cell. Magwitch’s outside description is disturbing. He’s gigantic, dirty, rude, sloppy. He eats “in a ravenous way that was very disagreeable, and all his actions were uncouth, noisy, and greedy”.
He comes off as a man that would commit horrific crimes and be charged heavily for them. Although, as we look closer at Magwitch’s character, we begin to realize the generous man he is. He picked a little boy out of the marsh that didn’t seem to be too afraid of him to inherit his wealth. He saw what happened when cruel people became gentlemen and were let off easy (Compeyson). He knew he wanted to turn an unselfish young boy’s life around.
He gave Pip a chance where he would have had none. If Pip hadn’t inherited this wealth, he would have stayed an ordinary boy and turned into a blacksmith. Magwitch knew that Pip was destined for so much more. He saw the good in people when other people saw the filth. Growing up in a society where he lived, all Pip and the people knew there was a class rank.
If you were wealthy and successful, like the creepy Miss. Havisham, people looked past your flaws because you were affluent and intelligent. But if you were greedy and dirty, you were seen as a criminal, where there was a rich, generous man behind it all. Dickens wanted to prove a point by having us look past the artificial descriptions of the characters to make up our minds about the situation at hand.
Speaking of crime throughout this novel, let’s look at where I believe some of these ideas came from. Helga de la Brache was a young woman from Sweden. She gained notoriety for becoming a famous con artist and convincing people she was the daughter of King Gustav IV of Sweden. She received a royal pension for this.
The trial in 1867 drew much attention from the royal and civil classes. She reminded me very much of Estella by being able to manipulate people into believing one thing when they were just really the total opposite. This was a mind-blowing feat; she accumulated all this money by just her significant skill of wooing people and talking herself up. Estella did the same thing in theory, but with men. In the 1860s, there were four major court cases.
Petty cases were minor offenses and dealt with unpaid and unprofessional magistrates. Quarter sessions were held four times a year and looked upon by the Justices of the Peace. Assize courts, which I believe Jaggers was involved in, were meant for more serious criminal trials to be heard by professional judges. The last was the Court of King’s Bench, a royal court with an overriding jurisdiction over any lower court.
These were the main factors of Jaggers’ career and defined how Magwitch was tried, even though he never really had a chance. Crime is a powerful force throughout Dickens’s Great Expectations. Every chapter has you tangled into an unfamiliar adventure and new criminal aspects. Jaggers deals with crime daily, and it is no coincidence that he was Pip’s guardian.
Through the psychology of social class, the material conditions in which people grow up and live have an everlasting impact on their personal and social identities, influencing how they think and feel about their social environment and critical aspects of their social behavior.
Relative to the middle‐class, lower/working‐class individuals are less likely to define themselves in terms of their socioeconomic status and are more likely to have interdependent self‐concepts (like Joe thinking more highly of himself because being a blacksmith and an ordinary man was the only life he ever knew); they are also more inclined to explain social events in situational terms, as a result of having a lower sense of personal control.
Working‐class people hold higher feelings of empathy and are more likely to help others in need. This explains why Magwitch was so eager to make sure that Pip became a gentleman; he saw this boy’s potential and was destined to make sure that he didn’t grow up the same way he did.
Highly educated people express prejudice towards minority groups when they are described as not highly educated, posing an economic and social threat to them. Estella being seen with an ordinary boy was not in her favor. She didn’t want to be seen as anything less than what she was perceived as by many. Her life was all about how others viewed her and the impact she could make by manipulating anyone she wanted.