Essay about Crime and Punishment in Great Expectations

Essay about Crime and Punishment in Great Expectations

Length: 2220 words (6.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Term Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview

Crime and Punishment in Great Expectations

    Throughout Great Expectations, Charles Dickens's attitudes toward crime and punishment differ greatly from his real-life views. Dickens, according to Phillip Collins in Dickens and Crime, "had strong and conflicting feelings about criminals" (1), which explains why he was known to refer to criminals as both "irreclaimable wretches" and "creatures of neglect" (33). The author's contradictions toward crime stem from the fact that Dickens was constantly torn between his childhood memories of prison and poverty and the legal training he gained as an adult. According to Robert Coles in "Charles Dickens and Crime":


Dickens knew how hard-pressed life was for thousands of English families in mid-ninteenth century England, and he knew the legal side of such desperation--a jungle of suspicion and fear and hate. He was especially attentive [if] . . . hungry, jobless men, women, children with few if any prospects became reduced to a fate not only marginal with respect to its "socioeconomic" character but also with respect to its very humanity. (575)


As a result, an ideological dichotomy is created within Dickens that reveals a more liberal stance towards crime in his fiction, than in his non-fiction writing.


If there is one common thread between his fictional and non-fictional writing, it is a deep obsession for crime and law. As Collins suggests, Dickens's "concern for crime was . . . more persistent and more serious than most men's" (1). He then adds that crime during the Victorian age, like today, "was an inescapable social problem" and that "Dickens is conspicuous among great novelists for his passion for dramatizing and commenting ...

... middle of paper ...

...ip, who turns his back against those who loved and cared for him most. First, he turns his back against Joe and Biddy out of shame for their poverty. Then he turns against Magwitch when he finds out that he's Pip's benefactor. Although his repulsion towards Magwitch is somewhat justifiable, Dickens' point still comes through clearly, which is that a person should not be not be judged for the clothes one wear, or even always for the crimes one commits. This epitomizes the dichotomy Dickens felt towards both the treatment and perception of criminals.

Works Cited

Ackroyd, Peter. Dickens. New York: Harper, 1990.

Coles, Robert. "Charles Dickens and the Law." Virginia Quarterly Review 59 (1983): 564-586.

Collins, Phillip. Dickens and Crime. New York: St. Martin's, 1962.

Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. New York: Morrow, 1988.


Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Laws, Crime and Punishment in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens Essay

- Laws, Crime and Punishment in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens Great Expectations criticises the Victorian judicial and penal system. Through the novel, Charles Dickens displays his point of view of criminality and punishment. This is shown in his portraits of all pieces of such system: the lawyer, the clerk, the judge, the prison authorities and the convicts. In treating the theme of the Victorian system of punishment, Dickens shows his position against prisons, transportation and death penalty....   [tags: GCSE English Literature Coursework]

Term Papers
3284 words (9.4 pages)

Essay on Dickens' Attitude toward Victorian Customs of Crime and Punishment

- Dickens' Attitude toward Victorian Customs of Crime and Punishment During the novel called Great Expectations, Charles Dickens makes it obvious to us how he feels about crime and punishment in the Victorian era. This essay will examine some of the ways he expresses his feelings and makes his attitude clear. The first way that Dickens reveals part of his attitude is by the words and phrases he uses to describe the escaped convict. To show the readers that the man he is describing is an escaped convict, Dickens uses such words and phrases such as: "A fearful man, all in course grey, with a great iron on his leg....   [tags: Great Expectations Crime Charles Dickens Essays]

Term Papers
813 words (2.3 pages)

The Punishment of Women in Great Expectations Essay examples

- The Punishment of Women in Great Expectations In Great Expectations, a prevailing theme is crime and punishment, and the novel accordingly explores the role of women in the Victorian society. On the one hand, there are a few female characters that are depicted with an innate moral goodness; on the other hand, there are those who are morally depraved. The difference between these doubles is striking and sometimes exaggerated, which creates a clear contrast between the characters who adapt to the imposed morals of Victorian culture, and those who do not....   [tags: Great Expectations Essays]

Term Papers
1031 words (2.9 pages)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens Essay

- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 'Great Expectations' was written by Charles Dickens in 1861. 'Great Expectations' is a coming of age story that revolves around the life of one man Pip. From the time he was seven years old until he was in the mid thirties, Pip shows us the important events in his life that shaped who he became. Along the way, he enquires many different acquaintances and friends that influence him in his decisions and goals in his life. 'Great Expectations' is a story that the public can relate to because at some point, everyone goes through the struggles that Pip must battle....   [tags: Great Expectations Essays]

Term Papers
2500 words (7.1 pages)

The Importance of the 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens Essay

- The Importance of the 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens Charles Dickens was born in 1812 and died in 1870. He lived in the Victorian era and was the most famous British novelist of the time, writing thirteen novels including ‘Oliver Twist,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and many more. All of Dickens’ books were serialised, before publishing the novel as a whole. This meant that his books were full of many characters and plot twists in order to keep the reader interested. He often wrote about crime and punishment, childhood and social status....   [tags: Great Expectations Essays]

Free Essays
1059 words (3 pages)

Jane Austen's Great Expectations Essay

- Jane Austen's Great Expectations Great Expectations is a story about the impact that money can have on people's lives. Money can change anybody and Pip was no exception. When Pip is poor he truly wants to be a gentleman, he has "great expectations" for himself. He loses friends, family and parts of himself all to be a true gentleman and forgets about the true values of life. Eventually he realises that letting money rule your life can have harmful effects. There are many themes that run through this novel....   [tags: Great Expectations Essays]

Term Papers
2152 words (6.1 pages)

Effectiveness of the Opening Chapter to Great Expectations Essay

- Charles Dickens ?Great Expectations. was written during the 19th century, published in weekly installments in a magazine. The novel is based around Pip, the opportunities he is presented with and the difficulties he has to face. In the first chapter we are introduced to Pip, and Magwitch, an escaped convict. The theme of crime and punishment immediately draws us in. Dickens uses a number of techniques to ensure the readers continuing interest, such as pathetic fallacy, metaphor, themes, symbolism, and adjectives....   [tags: Great Expectations Essays]

Term Papers
1093 words (3.1 pages)

Essay about Love, Isolation, and Redemption in Great Expectations

- Love, Isolation, and Redemption in Great Expectations The major themes of Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations to be discussed in order of importance, are "Love" in the context of human relationships, "Isolation" and finally "Redemption". The loneliness isolation brings can be redeemed by the loving association of our fellow man, in two ways. "Had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the appointed order of their maker" (author’s last name and pg. #). In isolation, the greatest sin we commit against others and ourselves is to shun human companionship, as Miss Haversham did....   [tags: Great Expectations Essays]

Term Papers
1023 words (2.9 pages)

Dickens' Great Expectations Essay

- Dickens' Great Expectations The novel Great Expectations uses the central character, Pip, to depict the ups and downs of a young child on a quest to become not only a man, but a gentleman. Dickens uses a variety of different techniques to create mood, setting, and atmosphere. Charles Dickens grew up in the nineteenth century, when times were hard and punishments were extremely harsh. So harsh you could be imprisoned or even hanged for stealing a loaf of bread. Dickens's father was in debt and as a result he was imprisoned and Charles went to a workhouse....   [tags: Great Expectations Essays]

Term Papers
699 words (2 pages)

How Charles Dickens Portrays Class in Great Expectations Essay

- The novel, "Great Expectations" is deemed to be one of the greatest English classic novels of the literary heritage. Charles Dickens, the author of Great Expectations is thought to be one of history's finest writers and has contributed to English literature in many ways. 'Great Expectations' is Dickens' thirteenth novel and is based loosely on his own experiences. He did this with many of his novels, including his partly auto-biographical piece, "David Copperfield" (with Dickens's own negligent mother and father being closely depicted in his character, David's parents)....   [tags: Great Expectations Essays]

Term Papers
4551 words (13 pages)