Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

analytical Essay
1897 words
1897 words

The novel, Great Expectations, deals with the concepts of a ‘true gentleman’; where the Victorian idea, which is based upon birth, wealth, social status and apparel, contrasts to Dickens’ portrayal of a gentleman who is a person of kindness, humility and generosity. Dickens upbringing and early life allows him to understand the position of the poor due to their humble upbringing, which keeps them in the lower social class. His didactic message, what it is to be a true gentleman, is reinforced by the bildungsroman style of the novel.

In Victorian times, one who came from a wealthy and respectable family was considered to be a gentleman. This is clear in numerous characters in the novel, who are immediately perceived to be gentlemen as they boast a large amount of money and dress in the finest clothes. One example, Compeyson, uses this to get a reduced sentence in court, as Magwitch says ‘one, the younger, well brought up, who will be spoke to as such’. This highlights the importance of social class in the Victorian era and it is clear to see here that the justice system is very much more favourable to the higher social ranks, deciding how they would get treated and addressed, and that the punishment is not dependent on the crime, rather the individual at trial’s background and upbringing. Dickens has shown that the Victorian concept of a gentleman is all about wealth and social ranking, not the characteristics we see in a gentleman today.

In addition to this, many of the characters in the novel show they also have the misconception that money makes a gentleman. Magwitch’s comment on Pip’s return that he [Pip] has ‘contracted expensive habits’ proves this and gives the impression that spending money in such lavish ways was no...

... middle of paper ...

...he end of the novel; small and humble – a true gentleman and a great man in the eyes of Dickens.

In conclusion, Charles Dickens, a social critic of humble origins himself, has conveyed his conception of a true gentleman, which is such a good conception that it is commonly used in our society today. He shows that you can only be a true gentleman at heart and if you are not it will be revealed. Matthew Pocket’s metaphor that ‘No varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself’ very successfully delivers and summarises Dickens’ message, that no matter how much you try to, your true identity will always be revealed. It also effectively reinforces Dickens’ treatment of the Victorian preconception of a gentleman as misconstrued and mistakenly engrossed with social status, wealth, birth, and apparel.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how the use of harsh words like ‘coarse’ and ‘thick’ imply a sense of disgust that the victorians felt while looking down on pip.
  • Analyzes how dickens challenges what realistically constitutes a gentleman in the novel.
  • Analyzes how pip acted as gentleman in a way that he hoped would impress estella; however, this leads him to give priority to money and appearance, and to be ashamed of his simple, ‘ungentlemanly’ background and upbringing.
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