Relationship Between The English Leisure Class And Tobacco Use In Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

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While this recurring satiric image seems to imply a static relationship between the English leisure class and tobacco use in the eighteenth century, this simply was not the case. Even before our image of the pipe-smoking gentleman had solidified in the public conscience, the English social class began to make a deliberate turn away from smoking and heavy alcohol consumption. “[A] modern diet of milder intoxicants,” notes Withington, became increasingly “integral to what has been styled the ‘culture of respectability’” (634). Colonial expansion now allowed for the wide consumption of coffee and tea in England, and “tobacco was repackaged as snuff, a hallmark of politeness” (634). Meanwhile, tobacco use became increasingly common among the lower classes of England. As David Cartwright notes, tobacco…show more content…
Here, the working class hero, Joe, is always smoking the pipe that comes to connote his place in the world. Consider when the protagonist and narrator, Pip, first receives his “Great Expectations,” and must leave his blacksmith’s apprenticeship under Joe to take up the life of an English gentleman. The socially mobile Pip has little regard for the “mean little room that [he] should soon be parted from and raised above, for ever,” but cannot absolve his feelings of having abandoned Joe and his former class identity as a blacksmith’s apprentice (145). The next day, as Joe comes by smoking his pipe to discuss Pip’s departure, Pip confesses that he “saw light wreaths from Joe’s pipe floating there, and I fancied it was like a blessing from Joe…pervading the air we shared together” (146). To Pip, Joe’s very essence as a workingman is the tobacco smoke that follows him wherever he goes. It is in this capacity as class-designator that tobacco alone is capable of blessing Pip’s escape from working-class

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