Why does Dickens attribute Wemmick with a very different behavior in his personal and professional life, a behavior that he follows as a work ethics rule?I am puzzled by the harsh behavior of Mr...

Why does Dickens attribute Wemmick with a very different behavior in his personal and professional life, a behavior that he follows as a work ethics rule?

I am puzzled by the harsh behavior of Mr Jaggers regarding his clients and the fact that his clerk also feels it is a matter of "work ethics" to be "cold"and insensitive in work matters.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Asked on by jequizag

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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An interesting character, Wemmick figures into the motif of doubles in Great Expectations. While Compeyson and Magwitch are two convicts, Mrs. Joe and Miss Havisham two invalids, Biddy and Estella two women Pip loves, Magwitch and Miss Havisham two benefactors, and two who wish to mold children to their purposes, Wemmick is a double unto himself who acts as a transition father for Pip in his search for paternal authority.  True to fact in Mr. Jaggers's office and true to emotion at Walworth, Wemmick can only retain his integrity by closing off the squallid world of London and Newgate Prison at his miniature castle.  Thus, he also figures into the prison theme that permeates Dickens's novel.

Although Pip, the penitential character who wrestles with guilt throughout the novel, feels contaminated after having visited Newgate Prison with Wemmick, Mr. Jaggers's clerk walks among the prisoners as one traverses a garden, bending and checking one, then another.  Ironically, it is in the prison that Wemmick displays some of the kindness reserved for Walworth, perhaps because they are removed from society.  He talks with the condemned men, yet he realizes that they are doomed, and Pip narrates that he looks about him as though wondering who will replace them: 

With that he looked back, and nodded at his dead plant, and then cast his eyes about him in walking out of the yard, as if he were considering what other pot would go best in its place.

Probably more than any other character in the novel, Wemmick understands what a prison society is, a prison in which people are misjudged and even convicted unjustly as is the falsely convicted Colonel, whom Wemmick visits at Newgate.  Indeed, life in Victorian society often cost people a fine, if not a sentence.  Because he perceives the corruption of society, Wemmick wisely distances himself from the sordid world in which he must work, keeping his "post office" mouth always the same.  For, it is only at Walworth, and sometimes with Pip, that he can let down his guard against the prison that is society.

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