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Different Treatment Of "Swine" And "Puppy" Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

950 words - 4 pages

In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens explores the popular attitudes of his contemporary readership towards social welfare and the treatment of the poor. He does this by setting the book in a time before certain social reforms, reforms Dickens thought inhuman, had been implemented. Great Expectations was published serially in 1860 and 1861. The time period the story encompasses was from 1812 to 1829. It is important to note that the period between these fictional events and the book's publishing was one of social upheaval in Victorian England. Most notably, in 1834, legislation known as "The New Poor Laws" went into effect. (A History of Western Society-source)The brutal treatment Pip ...view middle of the document...

This is ironic in the face of the treatment Pip experiences at the hands of familiar adults, and it is meant to be ironic. The term "raised by hand" in fact means to have been bottle-fed rather than breast-fed. In this way Dickens makes a statement about the plight of the underclass. To be raised by hand, or bottle-fed, is an artificial means of support, as is social welfare. Mrs. Joe makes much of the burden and sacrifices she suffered in order to provide Pip with this support. The implication is that Pip should be grateful for what he has been given. Pip is reminded often of his obligation to his sister. At Christmas dinner Mr. Pumblechuck tells him to "Especially be grateful, boy, to them which brought you up by hand". When Mrs. Hubble asks, "Why is it that the young are never grateful," Mr. Hubble's retorted, with which the other guests agree, is one which underscores the notion of original sin, and gives carte blanche to those charged with ministering redemption: "Naturally wicsious" . In every aspect of his early life nearly all Pip's encounters with adults follow a similar pattern. Pip is seen as a burden and a nuisance by every adult in his life, with the exception of Joe. Only when he begins to show some income-producing potential for helping these adults rise above their stations in life is Pip given any consideration that might be described as kind. Such is the case when Miss Havisham sends for him to come to her home and play. Overnight, Pumblechook, who had compared Pip to a swine at Christmas dinner, becomes...

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