Since it was first published over 150 years ago, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations has come to be known as a timeless and remarkably moving work of literature. It is considered to be one of Dickens’ most recognizable works, and is celebrated for its meaningful, universally-believed themes. In order for this novel to be properly understood, a thoughtful analysis of its major themes must be given.Socio-Economic Status and Hierarchy
The ones who seem to be most affected by society’s beliefs about class and social order are Pip, his family, and his friends, who would definitely fall under the “lower” part of the socio-economic ladder. Throughout the novel, the “lower” characters have a heightened and even a bit unhealthy obsession with class status. This is first seen when the character Miss Havisham is introduced; Uncle Pumblechook and the Gargery’s, Mrs. Joe especially, are elated that Pip will have an association with Miss Havisham, a very wealthy spinster. They believe that Pip and Miss Havisham’s association will both increase their wealth and social class, with Mrs. Joe proclaiming, “this boy’s (Pip’s) fortune may be made by his going to Miss Havisham’s…” (Dickens 82). At first, young Pip does not care for such beliefs, but as he becomes older, he begins to internalize them, and he himself starts to develop a sense of social order. It might have become established during his first encounter with Miss Havisham’s, in which he is severely ridiculed by Estella to the point of tears (Dickens 92). After that day, he would strive to be “oncommon” (Dickens 100). Pip’s views on social class even go on to affect his relationship with his those around him. He turns away from his from his family and friends in Kent, disregarding them…
… social ambition, because he believes that a higher level of education will lead him to have a greater standing in the world; he feels that the best way to make himself “uncommon” is to get out of Biddy everything she knows (Dickens 101). He tries to share his newly-discovered love of education with his family, he finds that they are not as enthusiastic about overcoming their ignorance as he is, which again causes Pip to reject his family; he summarizes his feelings, saying “I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society…” (Dickens 137).Perhaps the message that Dickens carries out through the theme of ambition is that ambition is something that shouldn’t be unchecked, and that a drive to succeed in life must never get in the way of equally important issues, such as family.Works Cited
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations.