In what ways is the visit to newgate Prison by Wemmick and Pip and indictment by Dickens on the penal system of the day

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter XXXII of Great Expectations finds Pip taking a tour of the infamous Newgate Prison.  With the personal memory of debtors' prison in which his father was incarcerated, Charles Dickens paints a portrayal of the prison as a place that is sorely neglected.  The food is poor and the men must buy their beer.  As Wemmick walks among the various prisoners, he talks to them, but cautions them that he is only a subordinate and they must talk to "the principals."  While he traverses the grounds, Wemmick shakes no one's hand, a sign of the fear of disease, especially cholera.

The ironic use of similes, comparing the prisoners to the plants in a garden that are replaced with others after they die, Dickens illustrates the small value placed on the life of the individual in prison, a dismal and tragic place where people are discarded.

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