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Historically, industrialization changed nineteenth- century England. The rich invested in machines and factories, and the poor were willing to work twelve to fourteen hour shifts for little money. Women and children were the most vulnerable because they could be easily intimidated and didn't join labor unions.
The theme of expectation and ambition is seen in many of the characters, but especially Pip. He wants to improve his status at first to be worthy of Estella. Dickens uses Pip to show how superficial the class system and the upper class are. Education is a major part of improvement, and this was denied to the poor, making it hard for them to ever get ahead. Pip also learns how to be a moral, thoughtful person in his efforts of self-improvement.
Dickens makes it obvious that ambition without morality is dangerous. He shows the wealthy to be insensitive to the plight of the poor. Their snobbery makes them look foolish, and their behavior is ridiculous.
Enotes has a full biography about Dickens as well as all of the other information you need. On the right, click on "Historical Context", "Characters", and "Themes" to get full details.
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