Great Expectations: What Dickens Wanted to Satirize about Society Essay

Submitted By dk462310
Words: 1491
Pages: 6

When Charles Dickens wrote the book Great Expectations, he wanted to condemn the unfair rules of hierarchy, biased justice system, and the judgment of people based on appearance. The Great Expectations takes place in England of the 1800s. During that time, England was not yet industrialized and it was nearly impossible to upgrade social class. Courts were manipulated by powerful individuals, and people were judged by their wealth and class. Dickens attempted to expose the cons of the society using a character called Pip. Pip is an orphaned child who lives with his older sister and her blacksmith husband, Joe Gargery. Pip is a simple lower-class boy who wants to escape the rules of hierarchy and become a gentleman. By some fortune, he is adopted by a certain mysterious benefactor and receives a chance to become a gentleman. As Pip grows from a little frightened boy to a gentleman, he is met with the dregs and filthiness of the society.

In the 1800s, hierarchy was the basis of society. There were three classes: The upper class, middle class, and the working class. Because hierarchy is so deeply rooted into the society, it was nearly impossible for someone of a lower class to achieve a higher status. In a hierarchical society, people of certain class are expected to take professions that belong in that certain category. Pip belongs to the lower class, and because of this, he is expected to remain there. This expectation of class can be demonstrated by the character Miss Havisham. “You had better be apprenticed at once. Would Gargery come here with you, and bring your indentures, do you think?” (96). Miss Havisham asks Pip whether he is a apprentice of Joe as it was a typical thing for children of the lower class to practice professions of that class. Pip cannot reach higher status in society as jobs he could get were limited. Education is an extremely critical factor in life. Well-paid and non-physical jobs are only available to the wealthy and educated. In hierarchical society, education is limited to only the upper and well-off middle class. Only those who are wealthy enough to hire private tutors or teachers can receive good education. Pip belongs to the lower class, and he cannot afford to hire someone to teach him. Instead, he goes to a school taught by Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt, who barely has any education herself. The learning in the classroom as Pip describes, is pathetic. “The book had an alphabet in it, some figures and tables, and a little spelling—that is to say, it had had once… as soon as this volume began to circulate, Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt fell into a state of coma… we all read aloud what we could—or what we couldn’t—in a frightful chorus” (71-72). Education that Pip received at school was insufficient. The material were extremely poor and devoid of hardly any information, the teacher herself could not teach as she fell into some form of coma as soon as students began reading, and the students themselves could only read what they knew, and did not learn to read what they did not know. Hierarchy keeps the people of lower class being able to receive education. Charles Dickens noticed this and wanted to criticize this problem of society that made it for the poor and uneducated to achieve a higher status in society.
The justice system in Dickens’ time was biased. Courts were affected by powerful and shrewd individuals. The character Mr. Jaggers demonstrates this in the courts. Jaggers is Pip’s guardian. A famous and fearsome lawyer, Mr. Jaggers have never failed to win a case for his client. An intimidating figure emitting an aura of authority and power, Jaggers is even feared by the judge himself in the court. Jaggers is a resourceful, efficient, and professional lawyer. Though he seems like the perfect lawyer with experience and success, he is not necessarily honest. Once he had a female client, called Molly, convicted of murdering another woman by strangling. For most lawyers, winning the case seemed