Mr. Jaggers is concerned with law not the truth. Does this detract/enhance his character?This question is from chapter 20-25 of Great Expectations

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Charles Dickens often drew characters from real life, and Mr. Jaggers is just such a character in Great Expectations. Based upon a rather unscrupulous lawyer that Dickens knew, Mr. Jaggers washes guilt from his hands frequently, for he represents the blurred and jagged lines between justice and injustice in the criminal court system of Victorian England. Rather than being a concerned solicitor, Jaggers is a cold calculator of financial gain whose legal acumen keeps criminals out of prison if they can pay his fees. Mr. Jaggers intimidates not only his clients, but everyone else as well:

The magistrates shivered under a single bite of his finger. Thieves and thieftakers hung in dread rapture on his words, and shrank when a hair of his eyebrows turned in their direction.

That Jaggers is not an ethical man is also portrayed in his appreciation of the evil Bentley Drummle---"I like the fellow." Drummle represents to Jaggers the shrewd and ruthless qualities necessary foradvancement in society. Of course, Jaggers himself is ruthless and shrewd, accenting the imagery of crime and criminal justice that pervades the novel. For, ironically, in Chapter 10 Pip writes of himself, words that equally apply to Jaggers,

I had sadly broken sleep when I got to bed, through thinking of the strange man and of the guiltily coarse and common thing it was to be on secret terms of conspiracy with convicts--a feature in my low career that i had previously forgotten. 

The concern that Mr. Jaggers has for the law and its usage point to the sharp criticisms of Dickens for the criminal justice system that has a different standard for those with wealth from that of the poor. Thus, the traits of Mr. Jaggers not only enhance his character as the personification of the corruption of the English criminal justice system, but his guilt which he tries to wash off his hands tinges the guilt of the other characters.


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