Essay on Importance of Setting in Great Expectations

Essay on Importance of Setting in Great Expectations

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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. Unlike most writers, Dickens did not romanticize London, but instead gave us a good hard look at the back streets and alleys where the real life existed. Dickens did not attempt to record the history or describe the eloquent beauty of the Abbey or the Tower of London. Chancellor states that:


The true seer of London, however, is he who recognizes romance in some little street from which all human splendor is absent; from whose stones no historic memories can be evoked; in whose precincts there is nothing legendary or artistic; but which is hallowed ground because it forms part of that great organism pulsating with the life-blood of millions, and thus insignificant as it may appear, acting its part in the daily existence of its citizens. (21)


Dickens was a "true seer of London" who went beyond the splendor and into the streets of London to show his readers the real life that existed there. Dicken...

... middle of paper ...

...t the price of others. Dickens' usage and descriptions of these various milieus have indeed led us to a greater understanding of Great Expectations.

Works Cited

Chancellor, E. Beresford. The London of Charles Dickens. Edinburgh: Riverside P, 1924.

Carlisle, Janice. Introduction. Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. Boston: Bedford, 1996.

Craig, David M. "The Interplay of City and Self in Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations." Dickens Studies Annual. 1987.

Davis, Paul B. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

Lane, Eric. A Guide to Literary London. Sawtry: Dedalue, 1988.

Lindsay, Jack. Charles Dickens - A Biographical and Critical Study. London: Andrew Dakers, 1950.

Schwarzbach, F. S. Dickens and the City. London: Athlone P, 1979.


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