What are 3 types of social injustice in the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?For each type of social injustice give an example from the book of how Dickens established it through his...

What are 3 types of social injustice in the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?

For each type of social injustice give an example from the book of how Dickens established it through his characters, themes, and setting, please

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout his immensely popular novel Great Expectations, Charles Dickens satirizes the hypocrisy of the Victorian Age that had strict standards of social level, income, and appearance. 

Social level

The hypocrisy of the veneration of the aristocracy by others is parodied in Uncle Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe's awe of the eccentric Miss Havisham whose house decays along with her simply because she is of the upper class. For, when they learn that Pip has been summoned to play with Estelle, who later mocks Pip's coarse hands and boots, Mrs. Joe too vigorously scrubs Pip and Uncle Pumblechook drills Pip with lessons in mathematics and attempts to slip through the gate at Satis House himself.

Further parody is apparent in the silly efforts of Sarah Pocket to find her connection to the aristocracy as she sits assiduously reading a book of titles while her unattended children tumble over her feet and into nutcrackers and other harmful items to the discomfiture of Mr. Matthew Pocket.

The expedient Mr. Jaggers, after having saved Molly from hanging, thinks nothing of exploiting her as a servant in his home.  A former jury member, whom he has bribed in a former trial, now works as his cook as Jaggers thinks nothing of manipulating these lower class people to suit his needs.


The justice of money is most clearly demonstrated with the unscrupulous Mr. Jaggers, who immediately asks any potential client if he/she has the wherewithal to pay him. When he and Pip walk to little Britain, Jaggers immediately dismisses anyone without money. His complete lack of concern about ethics in defending someone indicates that for him the criminal justice system is merely something to be manipulated as Pip describes him,

Which side he was on, I couldn't make out, for he seemed to be grinding the whole place in a mill.

Of course, the importance of money as something that elevates people is apparent in the "basest of swindlers," Uncle Pumblechook, who congratulates Pip on his "great expectations" and wishes him "the joy of money."  Once Pip goes to London with an income from his benefactor, Pumblechook addresses him as "sir" and boasts of his connections to Pip, even crediting himself for Pip's fortune in Chapter 28, whereas he belittled or ignored Pip as a child.

Even Pip himself treats Joe and Biddy differently once he has money, ashamed of Joe when he comes to London and neglecting to stay at the forge when he returns to the marshes.  He speaks in a haughty tone to Biddy on one occasion, accusing her of being jealous of him.  Indeed, Pip's good fortune has made him a snob.

Magwitch's life of crime evolves from his poverty; because of the strict stratum of Victorian society, Magwitch, then, is imprisoned in his poverty and can do no more than steal in order to survive.


The most salient example of the importance of appearances in the realm of social injustice comes in the story of Magwitch's life. Because he has always been so poor, he sold all he had to be able to afford the services of Mr. Jaggers as his defender against the charges of circulating stolen notes.  When he appeared in the dock, then, Magwitch can only wear his old clothes. On the day of the trial, Compeyson's gentlemanly appearance gave him a shorter sentence and the guilt was placed upon Magwitch.

That society judges on appearances is also evinced in the character of Wemmick who must hide his delightful personality with his "post office mouth" and business-like demeanor. 


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Great Expectations

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