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.
The above quote is, in fact, made in regard to Charles Dickens. Dickens had several real life experiences of poverty and abandonment in his life that influenced his work, Oliver Twist. The times of poverty and abandonment in Charles Dickens’ life instilled a political belief in Dickens’ mind against the new poor laws of Great Britain. Dickens’ felt the new poor laws victimized the poor, failed to give the poor a voice, and were in need of change. These points are shown in Oliver Twist through the characters, scenes, and narration Dickens’ uses throughout the book.
Importance of Setting in Great Expectations Charles Dickens viewed London as a place of economic competition and death. In Great Expectations, he used the prevalent bleakness of the places in London to illustrate the unproductiveness of the social and economic struggle which he viewed as fatal, both literally and figuratively. His depiction of this economic struggle is reflective of the nineteenth century's preoccupation with the rise of the middle-class. Janice Carlisle says, "The most common historical cliché about this mid-Victorian period was that it saw the final consolidation of the social, political, and economic dominance of the middle classes" (5). His association with death depicts the uselessness of this struggle, as well as the corruption associated with the economic endeavor.
Guilt and Corruption in Great Expectations The Victorian era is often cited as England’s golden age; however, beneath the trappings of silk and gold lay a society of greed and corruption. The rich lived a lifestyle of luxury and indulgence by exploiting the labor of the poor. Charles Dickens saw the injustice of the class system in Victorian society and worked to highlight the immorality of the upper class through his literature. Because Dickens himself had experienced both poverty and wealth, he recognized the inequality prevalent within the established class system and sought to expose the truth to others through Pip’s journey towards becoming a gentleman. In his novel Great Expectations, Dickens uses symbolism and imagery to develop the theme of guilt and corruption in order to explore the limitations of social class and the meaning of being a gentleman during the Victorian era.
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 23 (1983): 667-683. Millhauser, Milton. "Great Expectations: The Downfall." Dickens Studies Annual 2 (1972): 267-276.