How does Dickens use foil characters in Great Expectations to lead to theme of social class?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Foils are characters that are alike but different, used to compare and contrast two characters.  Dickens loved to use foils, and he did so in many of his novels.  One example of foils in Great Expectations is Pip and Drummle.  Both are suitors for Estella.  Pip is a poor boy with a hard life.  Drummle is rich and pampered.  Both are or are becoming "gentlemen" by Victorian standards.  Drummle was born a gentleman, Pip has to learn to become one.

In this novel, Dickens explores social class in many ways.  Pip assumes that his life will be better once he has money.  So do his family and friends.  Drummle has money and is absolutely miserable.  One of Dickens's favorite themes is that money does not make you  a better person.  Drummle is not the better person, and Pip starts to become as bad as Drummle.