As exemplified throughout contemporary literature of the nineteenth century, the
Victorians were in the midst of social, political, and economic turmoil that
would generate vibrations throughout all social classes. The emergence of a new,
mercantile middle class was driving all classes towards a society based on
capitalism. Competition was arising between the middle class and the aristocracy
for a secure social position with little, if any, concern for integrity and
moral values (Joyce 299). Like many Victorian writers, Dickens fundamentally
labors over the idea of how to live life in this changing society and contend
with the issues of morality it presents. He creates "an allegory of a nation's
transformation" in Great Expectations, illustrating aspects of the changing
Victorian hierarchical social order ranging from the virtuous, working-class
rural laborers to the newfound middle-class, basing their lives on the leisurely
life of the self-indulgent aristocrats (Cottom 103). Embodying the
characteristics of this new middle class in Victorian England, ridiculed by
Dickens, is the Pocket family: Mrs. Pocket, an obsessive woman aspiring from
birth to be an aristocrat, and Mr. Pocket, a man Dickens would label
"shabby-genteel." Dickens deliberately intertwines the Pockets into Pip's
narrative in order to satirize the principles and futility of both the middle
class and the aristocracy whom they impersonate.
Social class in nineteenth-century England, as portrayed in Great Expectations,
has a strong parallel to morality and values. The higher an individual climbs in
the social order, the greater the desire becomes for capital wealt...
... middle of paper ...
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Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. 1861. Ed. Janice Carlisle. New York: St.
---. Sketches by Boz: Illustrative of Every-Day Life and Every-Day People.
London: Oxford UP, 1957.
House, Humphry. "Writings on Great Expectations and George Bernard Shaw."
Joyce, Patrick. Class. New York: Oxford UP, 1995.
Pine, L.G.The Story of Titles. Rutland: Tuttle, 1969.
Sanders, Andrew. Dickens and the Spirit of the Age. Oxford: Clarendon P, 2001.
Schilling, Bernard N. The Rain of Years: Great Expectaions and the World of
Dickens. Rochester: U of Rochester P, 2001.
Wilson, Angus. "The Heroes and Heroines of Dickens." Dickens: A Collection of
Critical Essays. Ed. Martin Price. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1967. 16-23.
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