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Great Expectations

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外国语学院 2014级 师范八班 赵轶琳222014310011191


Comment on Great Expectations

Great Expectations, popular with readers, has always attracted a good deal of attention from literary critics. It is a story about class and the problem of wealth and also a critical novel of Victorian London.

On one hand, this is a kind of novel emphasizing the historical, social, political and cultural context. It is written about argues, such as contemporary issues, hopes and anxieties which have a determining effect on the development of the novel. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is also written about the society issues but in the future. Meanwhile, Shakespeare's history plays, concerning events that take place between one hundred and two hundred years before they were written in the 1590s, reflect the problems and anxieties of the Tudor monarchy, concerning such matters as the relationship between the monarchy, the aristocracy and the mass of the people. They are all written to reflect the social issues and raise people’s concern about these problems.

Great Expectations also has a number of social issues such as education and individual opportunity, which affects Pip, Joe, Biddy, Mr. Wopsle and Orlick, crime and punishment. It is also relevant to Wemmick, Jaggers, Magwitch and Molly, class and social ambition and affects a range of characters from Pip to Mrs. Pocke in the rule of money providing opportunities.

Dickens' characters of Victorian society ring true because the circumstances of London at that period are comparable to the modern Western societies in so many ways. Dickens' criticisms of Victorian England are harsher than many other novelists. Great Expectations tells people how one should live in such a world. Because of its relevance to contemporary society, it is important to pay attention to Dickens' solutions to the dilemmas faced by Pip, his moral character.

Pip, the hero is described as a weak, dreamy, aspiring man. But he is also the victim of Great Expectations. Joe is a noble character, with a warm heart, patience. Magwitch is the "varmint", whose memory extended only to his childhood, "a-thieving turnips for his living". However, a life of crime only made the feeling of gratitude stronger for one kind action. The character is powerful, and makes philosophers start to investigate into the phenomena of crime. In this wonderful creation, Dickens follows the maxim of characterization, and seeks "the soul of goodness in evil things."

On the other hand, Great expectations can be commented by another standard. It is classic definition. Here are two points about it. A 'comedy' piece refers to literature in which the hero at the end of the work successfully re-integrates into the world of man; 'tragedy,' oppositely, refers to literature in which the hero is separated from the world where he played a part at once.

If Great Expectations is judged by this standard, it contains elements both of comedy and tragedy, because Pip exists as a character of many separated worlds. Actually, we can find five classes in Dickens' novel. These five summarize the whole society of the 'Victorian.'

The two representatives of feudal order in the old world, are those village labor such as Joe and Biddy. Another is aristocracy such as Mrs. Havisham and Estella in the new world. And we can also see the urban poor, Jaggers' clientele and Pip's 'Avenger, the working class, Jaggers and Wemmick, and the capitalists, Compeyson and Pumblechook. Pip has a relationship with all these five circles, which making it very difficult for readers to predict whether he would reintegrate into society at the end. It is certainly impossible that he would integrate into them all, so he must choose one path. Dickens leaves the evaluation of Pip's success to his readers.

The world of Joe Gargery, Mrs. Joe, and Biddy is the most sincere and touching part in the novel. Clearly they are the representative of village labors. Joe's occupation, blacksmith, and his eighteenth-century residence in marsh country of Sussex indicate that. But Dickens endows these characters with virtues, honest in the men, such as Joe’s sincerity of feeling, and integrity and principle of Pip.

Miss Havisham, on the other hand, stands a representative of feudal aristocracy. Her lifestyle suggests strongly the aristocratic flavor. Pip's language about describing Satis House indicated its 'costliness'. And Pip remembered his first entrance to her room, called her as a 'fine lady'.

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