Are there any historical allusions, motifs, and/or symbols in Chapters 32-33 ?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Historical allusions

  • As a social criticism, author Charles Dickens does allude to the infamous Newgate Prison, the infamous prison that attracted the attention of Elizabeth Fry, a social reformer who was concerned with the conditions of the femal prisoners and their children.  In 1858, after Fry's reports that were presented in the House of Commons, improvements such as providing individual cells were made.
  • Richmond is a town in southwest London, the location of the railway in 1848.  This town is named after the palace of Richmond, the palace of King Henry VII.
  • Moses is mentioned in Pip's somewhat satirical description of the waiter bringing in butter hidden in "a quantity of parsley."


  • Wemmick's post-office mouth, symbolic of his only placing things that are important in it, and his tendency to be reticent unless something is of extreme importance.
  • Pip describes a "bell with an old voice—which I dare say in its time had often said to the house: Here is the green farthingale, Here is the diamond-hilted sword, Here are the shoes with red heels and the blue solitaire,—sounded gravely in the moonlight, and two cherry-coloured maids came fluttering out to receive Estella. The bold-faced items are symbols of the opulence and social life that the town of Richmond contains.
  • "What was the nameless shadow which again in that one instant had passed?" Pip remarks at the end of Chapter 32.
  • The "nameless shadow" that Pip notices pass by him is Magwitch who soon will appear as he comes to visit Pip and reveal his secrets.


Throughout these chapters and throughout the entire novel, there is the motif of 

  • the corrupt criminal justice system,
  • society as a prison, and
  • the guilt of one character affecting the guilt of another character that tinges yet upon another.
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Great Expectations

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