Could you provide a character sketch of Jaggers?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Dickens' great genius is nowhere more clearly shown than in his charactrizations. He needed a lawyer as a pivotal character for his novel Great Expectations, so he created Jaggers, the quintessential British lawyer of the Victorian era. Jaggers loves money and power. He is a big, intimidating man who is capable of terrorizing witnesses on the stand. He is highly competitive. He appears to be the sort of lawyer who will take any case as long as the client is able to pay his fee and as long as he believes he can win it. In other words he is only concerned about the letter of the law and not about truth and justice. This is because he has an exceedingly low opinion of humanity in general. (When he first meets Pip he tells him, "I have had a very large experience of boys, and you're a bad lot.") Jaggers opinion of humanity is brilliantly illustrated in his habit of washing his hands thoroughly after dealing with any person in his office, regardless of the identity of that individual. Jaggers seems totally cynical, brutal, materialistic, and selfish; however, he has a soft side which he endeavors to conceal from the world, including his law clerk. The sentimental side of Jaggers' character is shown when he tells Pip how he wanted to save the beautiful little Estelle from wretched parents and a wretched slum environment by getting the wealthy and lonely Miss Havisham to adopt her. Jaggers seems ashamed of what is actually the good side of his character and tries his best to hide it from the world. No doubt his profession  has had a great deal to do with shaping his character and personality.

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