What is the setting of Great Expectations?

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There are two main settings to this novel. Firstly. Pip grows up in an isolated home in the marshes of England where the only important personage nearby is Miss Havisham who lives in Satis House. What is interesting about the marshes is that in local speak they are refered to as "meshes," which is symbolic as Pip shows himself to be "meshed" to his humble origins as he does all he can to escape them and become a man of great expectations. Secondly, it is important to focus on the setting of Satis House, which Pip visits during his childhood. This location symbolises Pip's perspective of the upper classes, wealth and social status. It is here that Pip becomes aware of his low social position and begins to desire to improve himself, though ironically he is ignorant of the way in which Miss Havisham's home, wedding cake and even body are symbolic of death and corruption. The clocks that are stopped in the house signify her desire to freeze time and not acknowledge what has happened to her in the past.

The second major location in this novel is London. What is fascinating about the way that this location is described is that it is clearly not presented as the golden-paved city that Pip so clearly expects. Note the following quote that describes London as Pip visits it for the first time:

While I looked about me here, an exceedingly dirty and partially drunk minister of justice asked me if I would like to step in and hear a trial or so: informing me that he could give me a front place for half-a-crown, whence I should command a full view of the Lord Chief Justice in his wig and robes -- mentioning that awful per- sonage like waxwork, and presently offering him at the reduced price of eighteenpence. As I declined the proposal on the plea of an appointment, he was so good as to take me into a yard and show me where the gallows was kept, and also where people were publicly whipped, and then he showed me the Debtors' Door, out of which culprits came to be hanged: heightening the interest of that dreadful portal by giving me to understand that `four on 'em' would come out at that door the day after to-morrow at eight in the morning, to be killed in a row. This was horrible, and gave me a sickening idea of London...

London is therefore associated with crime and punishment, which of course resonates with Pip's own involvement with crime in robbing for Magwitch and lying about it as a child. Both settings are thus used to comment upon Pip's aspirations ironically, as wealth is implicitly associated with decadence, crime and death.

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Great Expectations

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