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How Far Do The Experiences Of Young Pip In Great Expectations By Charles Dickens Reflect The Life Of Minors In The 19th Century?

2095 words - 9 pages

Charles Dickens' Great Expectations is narrated by its young hero, orphan Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, living with his older sister and her husband, blacksmith Joe Gargery, in the Kent marshes. Young Pip lived a life similar to other orphans yet confronted a vast range of improbable incidents, such as helping a fugitive convict. Pip's background, opportunities offered to him, and familial life make his experience uncharacteristic compared to others in a similar position.From the first page of the novel, Pip enlightens the reader "I never saw my father or my mother ... and infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried.". This is a very precise portrayal of 19th century Britain ...view middle of the document...

Unlike most orphans, Pip attends evening school kept by Mr Wopsle's great aunt. Pip depicts her as "a ridiculous old woman ... who used to go to sleep from six to seven every evening, in the society of youth who paid twopence per week each, for the improving opportunity of seeing her do it.". This underlines the poor quality of schooling available in the 19th century to most children as the quality of a child's education was in direct correlation to the cost of it. Pip, coming from a working class family, is very fortunate to receive tutoring, albeit that of a very low standard as most of his class could not even afford to pay for it. Pip mocks his education, since he had to learn from "a ragged book that had an alphabet in it, some figures and tables, and a little spelling - that is to say, it had once!" However, the vast majority of orphans did not even consider attending school as they had different priorities - for instance getting something to eat. Pip attends school most probably due to the fact that Joe, Pip's sister's husband, is illiterate, as he did not have the opportunity to go to school due to his hard familial background. This is obvious when Pip asks "why didn't you ever go to school, Joe?" and Joe replies, "poetry costs money... all the money that could be spared were wanted for my mother. She were in poor elth, and quite broke.". This meant that even though Joe wanted to go to school, he could not as his family could not afford it. Joe was the reason for Pip's education, as Joe wanted to be the father to Pip that Joe did not have.Joe's affiliation to Pip is very atypical to those between adults and minors during the 19th century. The stereotype view of the relationship between the two generations was that children were regarded as "being seen but not heard" and that parents could do what they pleased with their children, since they thought of them as their property. This correlates with Great Expectations, when during a Christmas dinner, Mrs Joe's guests, Mr Pumblechook, Mr Wopsle and Mr Hubble, start insulting the young. Pip narrates, while sitting round the table, "But they wouldn't leave me alone. They seemed to think the opportunity lost, if they failed to point the conversation at me, and stick the point into me.", and later Mr Wopsle adds, "What is more detestable in a pig, is more detestable in a boy... or girl, but there is no girl present." This emphasizes that the adults are only mocking Pip, and Mr Pumblechook frequently reminds Pip to "be grateful...to them which brought you up by hand." meaning Mrs Joe, who has a very good relationship with Mr Pumblechook. Mrs Joe takes the credit for bringing Pip up "by hand" at every opportunity as it was considered a great achievement to bring up a child. Pip's sister is a very unrealistic portrayal of 19th century women as she is entirely the opposite of those during the time. Firstly, Mrs Joe acts as the dominant character in the Gargery family and even punishes her husband....

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