After reading Charles Dickens’ work Great Expectations, one may agree with John H. Hagan Jr. , and his criticism The Poor Labyrinth: The Theme of Social Injustice in Dickens’s Great Expectations that the theme of social injustice is prevalent throughout. The people of 19th century England were highly judgemental when it came to social classes, resulting in various occurrences of social injustices. Through the use of characterization and and a look into London’s 19th century penal system, Dickens reveals the recurring theme.
The characters of Great Expectations displayed their personal opinions through dialogue and how they presented themselves. The people of higher classes in this book talked down upon people of the lower classes and thought less of them because of where they came from. However, these thoughts were not always true. “Though she called me “boy” so often and with a carelessness that was far from complimentary, she was of about my own age. ” (page 43) Estella doesn’t care to know Pip’s name at first because she thinks she’s higher. Her position in society causes her to believe that a person from a lower class can’t be on the same level as her.
Pip is actually capable of being on the same intellectual level as Estella and treats her with respect. “The result is that he too takes on society’s vices, its selfishness, ingratitude, extravagance, and pride. He, too, becomes something of an impostor like Compeyson himself, and thereby follows in the fatal footsteps of the very man who is indirectly the cause of his future misery. ”(Hagan) Once Pip gets caught in between the social classes, he begins to act differently and think the way the the snobby higher class did. His new position in society causes him to treat people differently.
... society. With Great Expectations Dickens strongly criticizes three social problems that afflict Victorian England: the treatment of children, the injustice of the social class structure and ... the state stating his “political creed”, “My faith in the people governing, is, on the whole infinitesimal,” he announced; “my faith ...
Instead of getting to know Pip, the Havishams quickly assumed that he was nothing less than a poor working boy, but when Pip gets a taste of the higher class life, his character changes from sweet, understanding Pip, to snobby Pip who is highly judgemental. The 19th Century penal system was very corrupt and unfair. People were mostly judged based on accusations or their appearances, rather than if they committed the crime or not. “… he further corrupted a man named Magwitch who had already been injured by poverty, and revealed to him how easily the law may be twisted into an instrument of class.
” Compeyson knew that the penal system was solely based on appearance and and class. He was good-looking and looked as if he were a gentleman. The judge gave Compeyson half the years that Magwitch received because Magwitch ‘looked dirty’ and ‘looked like a criminal’. The penal system was ran by people in the middle class who thought they were better than the criminals that came to trial. They ruled in favor of people like them instead of listening to the full story. John H Hagan Jr.
’s criticism clearly presents the idea that social injustice is the main theme of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. After reading Great Expectations for themselves, readers may agree with Hagan’s opinion. The people in Great Expectations did indeed have various issues with social injustices and were focused more on class rather than character. The penal system of 19th Century England also judged based on what class a person was or what they looked like. One may personally think that the way some people were treated and thought of the Great Expectations was unruly and unnecessary.