The Societal Struggles of Human Nature through Dickens Great Expectations

Categories: Great Expectations

Human nature is the very essence that drives society, Charles Dickens explores how harsh society can be on a person through his novel Great Expectations which is a bildungsroman first published as a serial 'All the Year Round' from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. This novel was written in the Victorian era just after the Industrial revelation that changed society forever. The novel follows the journey of a young orphan named Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip as he rises to become a gentleman as well as the fall of him as gentleman.

The novel has impacted my understanding of society and human nature in regard to parenting, Pip and Estella are both orphans despite this they are both very different people due to their upbringing. Estella's guardian is manipulative whereas, Pip's sister looks after him because she is driven by what others think of her. Social class in Victorian England was quite different although it was still rigid as it was in the past class mobility was a possibility, however social class was still very apparent.

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The difference between the bourgeoisie and the proletariats was made quite apparent me as I compared what Miss Havisham and Joe did for a living. I believe the social class system exists because people such as the bourgeoisie do not have to work to make a living and people that are proletariats look up to them as though they are invincible. Despite this people such as Pip do move up and down in social status because of ambition and self-improvement of different sorts.

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It is important to understand that human nature and society is what influences a person.

Victorian literature is over-populated with orphans. In my context as a young Australian, Dicken's story about family in an industrialised society has impacted my understanding of a traditional family unit. Great Expectations has very few models of healthy parent-child relationships. Dickens created the relationships this way to show readers that Victorian British culture's traditional blind faith in family lines is not always so simple. Several of the novel's characters such as Pip, Provis, Estella and Biddy are orphans, and those who are not orphans come from broken or dysfunctional families. Pip was made an orphan as a result of the death of his parents however his abusive older sister, Mrs Joe raised "him by hand" as she did not want to look bad person in front of her community. Mrs Joe only brought Pip up because she wanted to look good in front of people. Mrs Joe was not a well-intentioned guardian. This is evident not only because she did not truly want to look after Pip but because she also abused him. The punishments that Pip mentions in this quote involve Mrs Joe using corporal punishment such as beating Pip with a Tickler, a wax ended cane. Corporal punishment was very common in households during the Victorian era. Mrs Joe not being a proper guardian and caring and making Pip feel as though he was truly apart of the family and that he wasn't worthless would most likely have bettered him the long run. It would have bettered him as he would have made him realise that not all women are cruel and made him less 'sensitive' to Estella's personality. Estella also an orphan much like Pip. She is the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham, Estella is very vain, beautiful and cruel. Miss Havisham adopted her so that she could implement revenge on those of the male sex. Miss Havisham wants revenge on the male sex as her fianc? left her on her wedding day. When Pip goes over to the mansion he over hears Miss Havisham say knowing Pip has a crush on Estella and as they play cards Estella says with disdain to Pip. Through this quote it is evident that Miss Havisham has trained Estella very well to break the hearts of men and make them feel bad about themselves. When Estella gets older, she realises that it is not normal to do such things and so Estella pulls away from Havisham, the older women grows possessive of Estella. As a result of this for the very first time the two women get into a verbal disagreement in front of Pip. This quote shows that Estella believes that her actions are a result of her upbringing. This is very true as I believe that children will often be heavily influenced by their parents in this instance guardian. Estella speaks of her characteristics with coldness that was taught of her by Miss Havisham and argues that she can not be held accountable for them because, as Miss Havisham's pet, all her behaviors are the direct result of Miss Havisham herself. I belie that Dicken's repeats use of the word "all" to apply to "praise" and "blame," "success" and "failure" when Estella says this to highlight to the reader that Estella is entirely the result of Miss Havisham's work. Her language denies any separate sense of self and makes her a belonging or "pet" to be treated as Miss Havisham's property. This quote makes me realise how hurt Estella feels because Miss Havisham never loved her. Guardians and parents alike differ depending on what the value and how they are influenced by society. Guardians like Mrs Joe and Miss Havisham demonstrate more selfish reasons as to by they bring up their charges in order to fulfil their own needs. Mrs Joe values the attention she gets from those around her and does not want to lose the respect and public image she has gained from raising Pip. Whereas, Miss Havisham values revenge and is inspired by her fianc? leaving her as result of her values she uses Estella to avenge her betrayal. Much like how Dickens challenges the idea of a standard family unit he also challenges social class.

In my context as a young Australian, Dicken's story about the struggle of the social class restraints in an industrialised society had an impact on me. Great Expectations is a novel that in which Dickens explores the class system of Victorian England and the class mobility. Whilst looking at Great Expectations through a Marxist Lens it is evident that Dicken's has divided the characters into the categories such as proletariat, bourgeoisie and middle class. After Pip's first visit to Miss Havisham's manor, Pip sees his family's way of life in a different light. He begins to believe that there are better ways to live as social class becomes more evident to him. Before Pip visited the manor he believed that sitting in the kitchen was normal afterwards he is ashamed as sitting in the kitchen seems low class. He has just realised that in the homes of people that are Bourgeoisie only servants go into the kitchens and the Bourgeoisie remain upstairs. Pip's attitude showed me that as humans we are heavily influenced by our surroundings. We see that others have better lifestyle's than us and then we instantaneously want to join them because we all want to have a sense of belonging. This revelation leads to Pip realising that the lifestyle's between Estella and him are entirely different. This quote shows the significant difference of class as it is very evident that Mr and Mrs Joe are proletariats and Miss Havisham is and Estella are a part of the bourgeoisie. As a blacksmith, Joe creates commodities not at the expense of someone else. Miss Havisham however, owns a brewery that proletariats farm for her to have an income as she sells the beer. This quote showed me that despite that despite Joe working hard to provide for him and his family Miss Havisham will always be able to feed of others without lifting a finger. She earns her income makes Miss Havisham being bourgeoisie means she will make a greater profit with minimal physical exertion at the expense of the workers who are proletariats who work hard will earn far less than her and are also controlled by her. During the Victorian era in Britain, class mobility was possible because the social class had changed so now those who were ambitious and wanted to improve themselves and their situation could do so by moving up the social class system from what they were born into.

In my context as a young Australian, Dicken's story about ambition and self-improvement in an industrialised society has impacted my understanding of society and human nature. Dicken's novel, Great Expectations, is a bildungsroman so the naming the main character 'Pip' was not a chance as it is meant to symbolise a small see that grows and develops much like how the main character of a bildungsroman grows and develops as the story develops. Pip grows and develops as he moves up and down in social class. This quote put into perspective how Pip grew and fell as a person. Pip is now able to go to London thanks to an anonymous benefactor. Before he leaves, he behaved terribly towards Joe and Biddy as he is ashamed of them and doesn't want them to tarnish his new reputation and his new status. However, on the coach Pip desire moral self-improvement. quote shows that Pip feels guilty about his previous behaviour and want to go back and ask for forgiveness therefore desiring moral self-improvement. It made me realise that as humans we need to let our pride get in the way of treating those who we truly care about with love. When Pip is talking to Biddy he explains how he feels unworthy of Estella. Pip also focuses on elevating his social class, this is brought on by Estella who is the catalyst that makes Pip so ambitious become a gentleman, in order to worthy of Estella and her social standing. Pip's life as a gentleman and blacksmith apprentice are not different in terms of what is moral however, he is driven by his love for Estella. This quote made me realise that as he wishes for Estella to love him, he is only making himself believe that she will love him. This use of symbolism made me realise that it is because Pip looks up to Estella he is so easily influenced by her and when she called him "common", Pip realises that he needs to change his social status. Pip's desire for educational improvement is linked to his social ambition and desire to marry Estella as a full education is a requirement of being a gentleman. Pip goes to Matthew Pocket a relative of Miss Havisham in to be educated to be a gentleman. Through this quote I have come to understand that Pip feels inferior to Estella whom is still in the back of his mind. Pip refers to deficiencies which I believe is him not being born a gentleman be feels as though he needs to composite. He realises that he cannot spend all his money and not study like his peers as it is his education that allows him to advance into a new social position. By spending his money irresponsibly Pip goes into debt which leads Pip to understand that he needs to have a connection with people who truly love him for who he is.

Updated: Apr 29, 2023
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The Societal Struggles of Human Nature through Dickens Great Expectations. (2019, Nov 16). Retrieved from

The Societal Struggles of Human Nature through Dickens Great Expectations essay
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