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With respect to Charles Dickens, there are personal sentiments that pervade his novels, especially Great Expectations. Written in 1861 when Dickens's family life was in a shambles, in Great Expectations, he takes a second look at his childhood through the retrospective adult Pip, a look backwards that is rather cynical.
Certainly, however, Pip is sympathetic to orphans and their exploitation by adults since he spent much of his youth virtually orphaned from his father and mother who resided inside a debtors' prison. Much like poor little Biddy whom Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt has cleaning and teaching her pupils, as well as the shrewish Mrs. Joe, his sister, whose cruel temper Pip is subjected to, Dickens himself worked in a blacking house under an imperative Fagin-like supervisor.
With this double perspective of a somewhat cynical man looking backward as a child through the personage of Pip, Dickens not only berates those who exploit children, but he clearly satirizes the rising middle class which aspires to the social level of what he perceives as a frivolous aristocracy. For instance, Uncle Pumblechook, "the basest of swindlers" scolds Pip constantly as a youth, while he is sycophantic to Mrs. Havisham. Then, when Pip comes into his "great expectations," it is Pumblechook, the flatterer, the hypocrite, who boasts of having been Pip's mentor in Chapter XXVIII in the newspaper that lies in the Blue Boar. Similarly, the supercilious Mrs. Sarah Pocket, who is purportedly descended from the upperclass, is one of Dickens's greatest targets of satire as she acts as the "toady" at Satis House, waiting for Miss Havisham to die so her husband can receive an inheritance; also, she foolishly is absorbed in a book about social titles while her children "tumble" over and under her, endangering their lives with only the poor maid to rescue them from their oblivious mother and helpless father, who simply pulls at his hair.
In this satire of the social classes, the social reformer Charles Dickens emerges from Great Expectations as he protrays the victim of an egregious system of justice, Abel Magwitch. This judicial system that produces a character such as Compeyson who is able to exploit the poor Abel Magwitch is clearly exposed by Dickens as in later chapters, the goodness of Magwitch emerges from his life of social persecution. The lawyer Jaggers, who washes his hands constantly, lest any of the corruption of this legal system remain with him is associated with everything dark and doleful as the boy Charles recalls the dark, dank prison in which he came to visit his poor father.
Estella the orphan as victim of a social system is also portrayed by Charles Dickens. Having been raised by Miss Havisham to wreak havoc with men's hearts, Miss Havisham unknowingly turns Estella's conditioned heartlessness upon herself; Estella tells her that she is incapable of loving Miss Havisham because she has no heart: "You made me," she tells the pitiable eccentric old woman, and Dickens, ever the social reformer, again points to the need for children to have loving parents.
More than anything, however, is the prevailing need of Pip for love and kindness; after everything, Pip returns to his original thoughts that he was happiest by the fire in the kitchen when Joe sat there, smoking thoughtfully his pipe. This image, too, reflects the man Charles Dickens, unloved and neglected as a child, who desires the magic of love.
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