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Money and Social Class in Great Expectations

Charles Dickens develops his novel, Great Expectations, with a strong emphasis on money and social class. To have an abundance of money during the mid? Victorian era implies that you are situated in the upper class society. Gentleman1, during this era, incur injustices on the lower classes of society. Their motivations are to obtain wealth and power regardless of any consequential ramifications that may occur. Analysis of injustice throughout the novel supports the belief that Great Expectations is a novel about social class. Wemmick and Pip both fluctuate between the upper and lower classes.

Through the social mobility of these two characters, injustices of mid? Victorian society as depicted in Great Expectations are expressed. The injustices exhibited on Pip and Wemmick are either, consequential to a certain incident, or the result of societys expectations toward a persons status. Divisions between upper and lower classes, and the aspirations of greater wealth, combine to motivate each character in Great Expectations. It is through this motivation to succeed that Charles Dickens illustrates injustice, and ultimately establishes a true mid? Victorian class structure.

A number of critics mention social class as a prominent focus in Great Expectations. These critics conclude that money and the precise divisions of a mid? Victorian society account for widespread class antagonism and injustice. George Newlins article, “What was a Gentlemen in the Early Nineteenth Century? ” discusses precise class divisions between many of the novels characters. His article provides an accurate explanation of societys composure during the mid? Victorian era. Newlins detailed description of social class, and the expectations within each class, establish a general foundation for understanding the role of a gentlemen.

John Hagans essay, “The Poor Labyrinth,” argues that injustices amongst the lower classes arise through circumstance. His contends that, as a result of a persons motivation to succeed, others may be victimized. Hagan insists that a persons actions reciprocate anothers injustice. Contrary to John Hagan, T. A. Jacksons essay states that societys injustices are as a result of social class. Rather than circumstance, Jackson believes that class antagonism creates injustice. He argues that injustices in the lower classes are the effect of upper class gentlemen. Jackson explains that class structure is responsible for social injustice.

By contrasting Hagans beliefs to Jacksons the significance of social class in Great Expectations is realized. Therefore, George Newlins general explanation of mid? Victorian society creates excellent groundwork for discussing injustice. This groundwork is extended by both Hagan and Jacksons separate views creating a thorough discussion on social class in Great Expectations. George Newlins article explores the variety of social classes that existed in the mid? Victorian era. With a general understanding of each class, and the conditions within each ones status, one can decipher the many injustices that occur in Great Expectations.

This understanding will help answer the question: Do injustices occur as a result of circumstance or society? Newlins social model consists of lower, middle and upper classes. The lower class consists of the working poor who had little skill or property. Above this rank exists the middle class population: “They differed from those below them by possessing capital, in the form of livestock, tools, trade goods or an investment in education” (Newlin 34). Newlin distinguishes the middle class from the upper class only because the middle class ranks are obligated to work.

The upper class society created their fortunes through the work of the socially inferior. As a member of this upper class, a gentlemans motivation is to obtain capital at the expense of others. When applying Newlins structure to Great Expectations it is important to situate the characters within certain social classes. Joe Gargery exemplifies the middle class because of his independence and ownership of tools. Newlin believes that Joes honest hard work and good morals are the only things that keep him from being a part of the upper class society. Wemmicks character represents both middle and upper classes.

His character at home is comparable to Joes, and his life as an office clerk exemplifies an upper class gentlemens characteristics. Pip demonstrates a similar degree of social mobility. He originates from the middle class, but aspires to become a gentleman. Although Wemmick and Pip are socially mobile, each character is motivated differently. Newlin states that “[the] status of an individual was something into which he was born, and he announced his standing. . . [through] his manner, his speech, his deportment. . . and the food he and his family and retainers ate” (34).

A person was to obey the guidelines of his social status in the mid? Victorian era. Characters such as Wemmick and Pip breach the disciplines of their class and move freely between each status. Newlin believes that “individuals were acutely aware of those immediately above and below them” (34). Wemmick and Pip are aware of the standards that are acceptable to each class, which allows them to adapt accurately. From this standpoint it is possible to examine the instance of circumstantial and societal injustice in the novel. Both Hagan and Jackson agree that mid?

Victorian society created many injustices. However, these two critics disagree on the root of the inequity. In his article, “The Poor Labyrinth,” John Hagan asserts that injustice is the result of a persons influence. He suggests that injustice is the direct cause of a persons action. On the other hand, T. A. Jackson argues that injustice is the result of society as a whole. John Hagan, in his essay “The Poor Labyrinth”, discusses injustice as a result of an event or action. Hagan asserts that interactions between characters consequentially generate injustices on other characters.

He applies his theory to Great Expectations with reference to the motivations behind each characters actions. Hagan states, “the baleful effects of social evil go on in a kind of incalculable chain reaction” (60). This quotation implies that social ramifications occur in a progressive pattern from one character to another. It is through Wemmick and Pips access to each class that injustices arise. Wemmick fluctuates between each class to fit in with its social standards. Although society influences his change, Hagan argues that injustice arises from circumstance.

He states, “the idea of consequence. . . [is] moved by a terrifying vision of the wide extent to which pollution can penetrate the different, apparently separate and unrelated, members of society” (59). Injustice or pollution, as Hagan describes, is consequential to an event. Although Wemmicks character supports a certain amount of spontaneity, his actions are depicted by anothers motivation. When applying Hagans argument to Pips character; it becomes apparent that a long chain of injustices undermine Pips aspirations of greater wealth and power. Pip is victimized by his benefactors revenge.

He becomes infected by his greedy expectations of the upper class society. As Pip conforms to an upper class identity he further distinguishes himself from Joe and life on the marshes. His progression truly exemplifies the variety of social class in Great Expectations. T. A. Jackson supports a different perception of injustice. In his essay he argues that societys social standards create injustice. The opposition between Hagan and Jacksons essays help to enforce social class as the dominating element in Great Expectations. Jackson builds on Newlins depiction of the mid? Victorian society.

While Hagans essay lacks concrete evidence, T. A. Jacksons essay provides an abundance of evidence. Due to transition from class to class Wemmick and Pip prove societys blame toward injustice. Their social mobility exemplifies each social class. Without Great Expectations emphasis on social class, Wemmick and Pip would have no need to change. For example Jackson states that Wemmick is “[in] society cold, unsentimental, calculating, and ruthless. . . [and] in private, is capable of deep affection, sympathy, and compassion” (Jackson 174). He argues that a persons social status is reflective of his personality.

Similar to Wemmick, Pip alternates his status as well. He ranges from Joes middle class society on the marshes to an upper class gentleman in London. Furthermore, Jackson attempts to parallel Pip s fortune to societys. He states: “Respectable society owed as much to these working men, and was as little aware of it, as was Pip to the source of his advantages” (174). Jackson implies that, just as Pip is selfishly unaware of his fortune, the upper class society is unaware of the working classes importance. Each circumstance takes for granted his personal wealth and societal status.

Social classes throughout the novel are therefore the justification for character development and injustice. By understanding Wemmicks motivation to alter his values, and the motivation behind Pips fortune, the distinct presence of social class and injustice in Great Expectations can be supported. By providing details from Dickens novel, it is apparent that Jacksons points are more accurate than Newlins circumstantial beliefs. The motivations of each character consequentially causes injustice. However, Wemmicks character benefits from injustice toward lower classes and Pips does not.

Instead, Pip is victimized by the upper class society. Abel Magwitch promotes Pips development, and is the fuel that drives him away from the marshes. The central element of social class in Great Expectations is the undermining theme that drives Wemmick and Pip. With reference from the novel, their social mobility can exemplify this injustice. While practicing his profession, Wemmicks character exemplifies the upper class and its materialistic values. As Wemmick talks to Pip about his jewelry, he explains his true motivation. He states: Theyre curiosities. And theyre property.

They may not be worth much, but, after all, theyre property and theyre portable. . . as to myself, my guiding star always is, Get hold of portable property. ” (201) Through his profession Wemmick obtains property from the lower classes to benefit himself. Rather than circumstance, it is through this social structure that a persons appearance and personality is dictated. Pip describes Wemmick as a man, “whose expression seemed to have been imperfectly chipped out with a dull? edged chisel” (171). His description suggests that Wemmicks personality is carved by his position.

Due to his social status, Wemmick is expected to cause injustices on lower classes. However, at home Wemmick changes his values to accommodate his familys status. Wemmicks family has contradictory values to those of a gentlemens. His personality at home is caring and compassionate, from which he causes no injustice on anyone. When he is at home benevolent deeds are not ridiculed by others. Contrarily, Wemmicks profession would never condone any charitable exercise. For example, when Pip asks Wemmicks advice, at his office, whether he should financially support Herberts aspirations, Wemmick replies says no.

His opinion is that a man should never “[invest] portable property in a friend” (291). However, Wemmick also states that: Walworth is one place, and this office is another. . . [they] must not be confounded together. My Walworth sentiments must be taken at Walworth; none but my official sentiments can be taken in this office. ” (291) As a result of his opposing societal roles, Wemmick and Pip meet at his home. At Walworth, Wemmicks opinion is opposite to his at the office. He supports Pips benefaction and decides to help him financially assist Herbert.

By studying the interactions between Wemmick and Pip in each social class, one can conclude that societal expectations do create injustice. Pips aspirations of greater wealth motivate him to excel towards a higher status. However, by understanding the motivations of his benefactor, mid? Victorian class antagonism is supported. Abel Magwitchs motivations are as a result of injustices provided by the upper class society. He inhabits the criminal underworld, the lowest class of society, in which he suffers unfair treatment and a harsh life. His enemy Compeyson receives biased treatment for an identical offense.

Due to his upper class stature, Compeysom receives half the jail term that Magwitch is sentenced. His exile from the upper class drives his motivation to create a gentleman, through which he can experience the society that crippled his life. This discrimination exemplifies T. A. Jacksons accusation that society is to blame for social injustice, and not circumstance. It is through Magwitchs benefaction that Pip receives social mobility. He is seduced into his motivation to become a gentleman, and therefore is victimized by his separation from Joe and the marshes. Pip realizes his seduction into the upper class at the end of the novel.

When he is informed of Joe and Biddys marriage he wishes them children, and hopes that they grow up differently. Pip states: Dear Joe, I hope. . . that some little fellow will sit in this chimney corner of a winter night. . . who may remind you of another little fellow gone out of it forever. Dont tell him Joe, that I was thankless; dont tell him Biddy, that I was ungenerous and injust. . . it would be natural to him to grow up a much better than I did. ” (479) As Pip asks forgiveness for his upper class aspirations, he admits to the injustices that he has been victim to.

Jacksons belief that social class causes injustice is supported through Pips confession. It is the class antagonism which cause Magwitch to shape Pip, and it is his aspirations of greater wealth that caused his separation from home. In conclusion, Charles Dickens novel revolves around social class. It is through this emphasis that Great Expectations exemplifies injustice during the mid? Victorian era. Injustice in the novel may be examined from different perspectives. George Newlins article provides a good understanding of class structure in Great Expectations.

Using his model John Hagan, and T. A. Jackson expand their individual opinions. With reference to the Wemmick and Pips characters one can notice how social class creates injustice in Great Expectations. Although Hagans circumstantial beliefs are discussed, by opposing his essay, the importance of social class in Great Expectations becomes evident. Class separation as well as aspirations of greater wealth motivate Wemmick and Pip. Dickens character development is made possible through their social mobility. The social standards that exist in Great Expectations are the ultimate cause of injustice, and the basis for understanding social class throughout the novel.

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