Dickens' Social Commentary in Great Expectations

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Dickens' Social Commentary in Great Expectations

Charles Dickens' Great Expectations stands as one of the most highly revered works in all of English literature. The novel's perennial appeal lies in its penetrating depictions of character, rich panoramas of social milieu, and implicit crusades against social evils.1

Dickens used the growth of his characters in Great Expectations, particularly Pip, in relation to others to write about social reform, and most effectively illustrated this by using the first-person narrative style. In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens has written a social commentary using the development of his characters to illustrate his message. In my paper, I will concentrate on three of the main characters, Magwitch, Miss Havisham, Estella, and Joe Gargery.

During the time when he lived, Dickens recognized many evils in society. In Great Expectations he focused on the problem of the whole idea of a class in society. It was a social commentary on society. His way to illustrate the solution to the problem of class in society was "to create characters who can get beyond the limitations and divisions of class identifications and see themselves as responsible humans."2 The people who read Dickens' works were often the kinds of people he was attacking. Dickens lived during the Victorian age which was known as the age of social criticism. Great Expectations was Dickens first attack on class in society.3

Dickens did not come right out and preach about social reform in his novels. He uses his rich characters to illustrate the values and morals he is trying to get across. Great Expectations is a novel of social criticism. In Dickens' opinion the two main social evils were selfishness an...

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...ornback, 22.

3. Hornback, 4-5.

4. Hornback, 27-28.

5. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1942), 3.

6. Dickens, 395.

7. Dickens, 68.

8. Dickens, 71 .

9. Dickens, 72.

10. Dickens, 72.

11. Dickens, 598.

12. Dickens, 57.

13. Hornback, 25-26.

14. Hornback, 60.

Works Cited

Chesterton, G.K. Charles Dickens: A Critical Study. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1906.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1942.

Hornback, Bert G. Great Expectations: A Novel of Friendship. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987.

Pearson, Hesketh. Dickens, His Character, Comedy, and Career. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1949.

Priestley, J.B. Charles Dickens and His World. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961.
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