Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is a coming of age story set in the early eighteen-hundreds through the late eighteen-hundreds, an era of Queen Victoria and a time for great progression and prosperity. Sadly, the progression and prosperity only benefited people belonging to a higher class putting a big division between the classes, and Dickens used this novel to reflect upon that society of time. The depiction of the greatest evil, the society, is made evident through Magwitch’s role as a boy growing up in poverty, as a criminal alongside of Compeyson, and the bond him and Pip shared.
Magwitch had a very hard upbringing considering he was an orphan in a poor community in the nineteenth century therefore it is not surprising that our first impression of Magwitch was built around the fact that he is not trustworthy and is a villain. But initially he is also a coward for threatening Pip “keep still or I’ll cut your throat” by which we get an idea that he is an aggressive individual willing to put his hands on an innocent child. (4) Society did little for him, branding him as a “terrible hardened one”. (346) Magwitch endured in very poor conditions, he said, “I must put something in my stomach”, also the reason Magwitch got into “thieving turnips for [his] living”. (347) Soon he ended up being “in jail and out of jail” throughout his life, and he is also been “put out of this town and put out of that town” and been “stuck in stocks, and whipped and worried and drove”. (346) He clearly did not have a reasonable and/or stable upbringing or been have given access to education since it was not affordable. So, this tells us that the society who has put this great difference b...
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... I gets liberty and money, I 'll make that boy a gentleman!" And I done it. Why, look at you, dear boy! Look at these here lodgings of yourn, fit for a lord! A lord? Ah! You shall show money with lords for wagers, and beat 'em!” (286-287)
This proves that even though society did portray Magwitch as ‘evil’, he was still a good person deep down.
In the end, the greatest evil depicted in Great Expectations was the society. The character of Magwitch is one of the many ways Dickens conveys that idea. He uses Magwitch’s role as an orphan growing up in poverty, how he is treated unfairly by the justice system, and his role as the strongest father like figure in Pip’s life. Magwitch was a victim of the unjust and corruptive society which led up to his criminal lifestyle. Ultimately the superlative evil presented in the novel was the society and their impact on citizenry.
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