Through close analysis of Chapters 1-19 discuss how Dickens’ representation of Pip’s boyhood in the marshes reflects his views of Victorian England. Charles Dickens wrote ‘Great Expectations’ because he wanted to expose the injustices of the class system and how hard life was for the poor in Victorian England; his book portrays his dislike of a number of aspects of Victorian England. These include Child treatment; poverty; and education. His concerns centre however on the class divide of Victorian England and how difficult it was for a lower class person to become a gentleman (upper class).
Dickens deals with four themes in his novel: pride and revenge; aspects of society; humanity; justice. He explores these themes through his character Pip. In his novel Dickens portrays his views on the negative aspects of Victorian England such as poverty, the class divide and lack of education. He shows us the poverty of Victorian England by explaining what the poorer characters (Pip’s family) haven’t got.
‘The dark walls layered in paintings’ and ‘the furniture or what formed furniture’ The paintings and large amounts of furniture are new to Pip.
Dickens is also showing the class divide by showing what the upper class have that the lower classes don’t. However the largest portrayal of class divide is when Pip visits Satis House. The girl Estella refers to Pip as boy as if degrading him to a status below her. ‘This way boy’ ‘Boy, you may kiss me if you wish. ‘ She feels that since Pip is common he is not worth acknowledging.
‘You’re just a common laboring boy … With coarse hands’ Another of Dickens’ concerns was education, or lack of education for the lower classes. ‘I had just enough leaning to be able to spell them out,’ this shows that Pip was uneducated.
‘Supposing you did? It can’t be supposed. ‘ The conversation between Pip and Joe is about spelling Gargery, Although Joe is a grown man, he is unable to spell his second name. This shows that the lower classes were uneducated. Throughout the chapters 1-19 Pip makes vast changes in his appearance, language and opinions of other people. There are a number of key events, places and thoughts that change pip. The convict on the marshes at the beginning, the encounter with Magwich scares Pip and starts to make him bitter toward people who hurt him. ‘…
and if you tell a soul I’ll slit your throat’ This encounter scared Pip but because of his mistreatment and fear of what the convict might do he followed the convicts demands. As he was being forced to do and say things against his will this made him fearful of the consequences of these actions. ‘Say it Say it, God strike me down if I don’t’. His guardians Mr. and Mrs. Joe, his sister Mrs. Joe is brutal and constantly reminds him that he is a great burden. ‘You’ll be the death of me. ‘ However due to him being a child, Pip takes this seriously and feels that he is a burden on his sister.
The character of Mrs. Joe is the character Dickens uses to portray the poor treatment of children in Victorian times. How they were seen as unimportant and in many cases burdens. Pip then meets Estella and Miss Havisham who has formed Estella into her tool for revenge against men, because ‘she was stood up at the altar. ‘ Therefore she encourages Estella’s hostility towards Pip. Pip therefore wants to become a gentleman in order to win over Estella’s approval. This is a characterization in which Dickens shows his hate of the class divide of Victorian England.
Satis House also caused changes in Pip. The dark atmosphere and constant reminders of misery (clocks stopped at 8:45), this dark miserable place causes Pips morale to deteriorate. ‘Not a spec of light entered the house. ‘ This portrays Dickens’ view of the upper classes to be evil and dark. But his image of Miss Havisham and depression and history of being left standing at the altar show that he thinks that the upper class are still people just like Pips family. However because of their wealth and their pursuit of wealth has turned them slightly evil.
A key plot point that changes Pip is when he realizes he is an uneducated ‘laboring boy with coarse hands’. The realization that he is uneducated and common inspires Pip’s desire to become gentry in order to gain the love of Estella. Often Pip is treated badly by Estella because he is so common. This is shown when Estella hands him some bread, meat and a mug of beer after his meeting with Miss Havisham. ‘….. and a small mug of beer, she handed them to me and walked away’ Estella’s total disdain of Pip shows that she feels he isn’t worth acknowledging, this degrades Pip.
This want of acknowledgement and desire to show Estella he is a good man makes Pip’s desire to become gentry. This side of the novel is where Dickens shows that it was very hard for lower classes to become upper class (gentry. ) He shows this in the mocking and sighing of people as Pip tells them of his great expectations. In the book Pip is narrating the story, although there are two narrators in the story. Pip as an older gentleman looking back on what his life was like and the Pip as the story is happening.
These effects would normally confuse a reader, but Dickens uses the duel narration technique to show the reader what was happening and what Pip was thinking and feeling. Pip describes his feelings of inadequacy concerning himself and his family after spending the day with Miss Havisham and Estella for the first time: “I thought how Joe and my sister were then sitting in the kitchen, and how I had come up to bed from the kitchen, and how Miss Havisham and Estella never sat in the kitchen, but were far above the level of such common doings. ” .
In the next paragraph, he comments on that day from his present point of view: ‘That was a memorable day for me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same way with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns and flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day. ‘ The narrator is now that of the mature Pip, reflecting on his past, rather than that of the young.
This technique enables the authors to assert commentaries concerning past events that they may not be able to relay in the voice of the young, not yet mature, narrators. Therefore the narrative technique of the novel helps the reader understand Pip and make us realize how he felt and why he did things he did. This is used to Dickens’ advantage as it allows him (as Pip) to express his views of Victorian England without having to put his views into words suitable to come out of a child’s mouth.
Here since Joe is being reassuring Pip speaks of him in positively. ‘It was to re-assure me. ‘ However characters that beat Pip like Mrs. Joe are seen as ogres due to Pip describing how sad and unhappy it made him we feel feel sorry for him. Due to the mature explanations giving by the older Pip we can understand more about what Dickens is portraying about Victorian life, that children are gravely mistreated. Other than the narrative technique the settings help us to engage in the story and understand Pips situations.
Satis house is dark and scary and as Pip is a small child for whom the reader has sympathy, we feel that sympathy for him. The same applies for the convict on the marshes seen. ‘This bleak place,’ we feel more scared for his safety and well being, as the marsh is a bleak desolate place. Here Dickens shows the reader that Victorian England was dangerous for young children to wander around. In all throughout the first 19 chapters Dickens shows his dislike of treatment of children by showing Mrs. Joe beating and degrading Pip.
This represents the treatment of children in Victorian England as a whole. Dickens shows his unhappiness that the lower classes were uneducated by showing Joe unable to read basic sentences and unable to spell his own surname. ‘Suppose you could spell it, It can’t be supposed. ‘ By showing Joe unable to spell his own surname, Dickens is portraying a view that the lower classes were uneducated. Dickens also portrays his dislikes of the large class divide. He shows the class-divide by Estella not wanting to have contact with Pip as he was of lower class.
He uses a key emotional method to make us see his points that the class-divide and treatment of children was bad. He uses our emotions in particular our sympathy for Pip as a young boy being beaten. He also uses our sympathy for Joe to make a point of poor education. Overall Dickens shows that in Victorian England life for the upper class was easy but they were very bad people but in contrast life for the lower class was hard work and painful but they are the good people. He uses his novel to show his dislike and anger that this is the case and wants to do something about it.
He makes points that the upper class treats the lower class badly and also shows that this is because the lower class works hard and toil whereas the upper class lie back and relax. He makes numerous points about the lack of good educations amongst the lower class. He shows this by Pips treatment by Estella. His novel shows the aspects of society that Dickens feels are negative. With his novel Dickens provided the ammunition for the growing movement for social reform to fire and begin an attempt to change Victorian England’s society for the better.
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