How would you compare and contrast Jaggers and Wemmick's social statuses by the way they live in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Jaggers is Wemmick’s employer.  He lives simply, even though he has more money than Wemmick.  He also is unmarried and does not live with family.  He has servants only.

Wemmick has a very different lifestyle because although he is only an employee, he is very careful about money.  He is constantly on the lookout for “portable property” or money.  Wemmick also lives with his father, the Aged P, making his life mostly centered about the father.

While neither Jaggers nor Wemmick seem to have any emotions at work, Wemmick changes completely outside the office.  He clearly has affection both for the Aged P and Miss Skiffins, whom he marries at the end of the novel.  Jaggers cares about no one, and has no one to care about him.  Most people avoid him or fear him.


mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Jaggers lives in Soho, a fashionable part of the city of London, during the earlier nineteenth century, the setting of Great Expectations. Wemmick lives outside the city in a humble place called Walworth, where he has little gardens and animals.

In Soho, Jaggers owns

a stately house but dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows. [Inside there is] a stone hall, bare, gloomy, and little used.

There is a dark staircase that leads to three dark brown rooms located on the first floor. Pip notices that the paneled walls contain carved garlands, which he thinks look like hangman's nooses. These three rooms are the ones in which Jaggers inhabits; in the best of these, dinner is served. Everything has an "official look" to it. Pip remarks,

so he seemed to bring the office home with him in that respect too, and to wheel it out of an evening and fall to work.

Jaggers's guests at the dinner Pip attends are not cordial; one is Bentley Drummle, who with his boorish sneer, is an "upper class lout." The housekeeper, Molly, is not friendly, either. As she clears the table, Jaggers grabs her wrist and shows his guests their undersides. One of them has been slashed with a knife over and over as it is greatly scarred. After this display, Jaggers dismisses Molly, and he then watches Drummle until he suddenly announces the evening is over.

In contrast to Jaggers's stately but dark and oppressive house, Wemmick's small home in the rural district of Walworth is

a little wooden cottage in the midst of plots of garden, and the top of it was cut out and painted like a battery mounted with guns.

There is a flagstaff on the other side of a little bridge. At nine o'clock Greenwich time, the official basis of standard time throughout the world, Wemmick fires the gun. In the back of his home, Wemmick has a pig, rabbits, and chickens. He explains to Pip that having these things helps him "brush the Newgate cobwebs away, and pleases the Aged," his old father. Wemmick removes himself from work at Walworth, while Jaggers seems to take his work home with him.

Wemmick brings Pip into his little castle where they dine. At nine, the cannon is lit and the little house shakes as though it would fall. Pip enjoys the meal and the entertainment, as well as his "little turret bedroom." When they return to London together the next day, Wemmick becomes "drier and harder" as they near the city and he leaves this humble retreat behind.

In contrast to Jaggers's stately house, Wemmick's little castle seems out of the pages of a children's story. There is life and energy in this home, so unlike the oppressive atmosphere of Jagger's home in the upper-class district of Soho with its brooding housekeeper and ill-mannered guests. While books on law and criminality rest in the stately rooms of Jaggers's home, Wemmick's humble little house is occupied by love and activity.


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