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How can I discuss the social conditions described in Great Expectations in light of...

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hadavoda | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 27, 2012 at 4:39 AM via web

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How can I discuss the social conditions described in Great Expectations in light of Marxism?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 27, 2012 at 4:52 AM (Answer #1)

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I would suggest that Marxist theory would hold much in way of relevance in discussing the lives of the characters in the novel.  The overall veneer of wealth, something representative of those who own the means of production, conceals a reality of suffering and hardship.  This is one element of Marxist thought in Dickens' depiction of social conditions.  This also extends into the lives of the characters.  The idea of Pip being an orphan and being jettisoned off into society is something that Marx would argue as a result of a capitalist society, where human beings are severed from one another and victimized by a social order in which the acquisition of wealth and lack of solidarity to one another are both valued.  Additionally, consider the life of Magwitch on the streets, one in which crime is the only reality for someone of his condition is yet another Marxist critique of the capitalist system, one in which being successful comes at the cost of providing for those who are abandoned by the system.  Finally, Dickens' depiction of Industrialized London is an honest one, filled with child labor, the lack of unionization, and polluted cities, all of which represent a Marxist critique of the industrialist system.

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