Theme of Social Class in Great Expectations

Last Updated: 21 Mar 2023
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One theme from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is the great difference in social classes. Throughout the story the main character, Pip, goes from living in a small, poor village, destined to be a blacksmith to becoming a wealthy gentleman who lives in a large home in London. During Pip’s journey a clear divide can be seen between the wealthy, high class of England and the poor laborer class.

This divide between classes is seen as soon as the first higher class person in the story is mentioned: Miss Havisham. When Mrs. Joe and Mr. Pumblechook discuss Pip visiting Miss Havisham’s house to play, Pip recalls, “I had heard of Miss Havisham up town – everybody for miles round, had heard of Miss Havisham up town- as an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion” (Dickens 50).

Even though Miss Hivisham spends all her time in seclusion up town she is known for miles around because of her high standings, which gives a sense that the high class led extremely different existences than the poor. This theme is seen again when Pip tries to teach Joe things he has learned from Miss Havisham: “What I acquired, I tried to impart to Joe. This statement sounds so well, that I cannot in my conscience let it pass unexplained.

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I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella's reproach” (Dickens 109). Even with the small amount Pip has learned about being a gentleman he already feels like he is on a different level than Joe and that Joe would have something to gain from being more like him. The sharp division of classes appears many other times during Great Expectations and helps show how different life was for different groups of people in England. The book gives two distinct viewpoints for this time period.

Related Questions

on Theme of Social Class in Great Expectations

What is the social class structure in Great Expectations?
In Great Expectations, the social class structure is divided into three main classes: the upper class, the middle class, and the lower class. The upper class is made up of wealthy landowners and aristocrats, while the middle class is composed of merchants, tradespeople, and professionals. The lower class is made up of laborers and the poor.
What is Pip's social class in Great Expectations?
Pip is from a lower-class background. He is an orphan who lives with his sister and her husband, Joe Gargery, a blacksmith. He is also a poor apprentice to Joe, and his social class is lower than that of the wealthy Miss Havisham and Estella.
What does Dickens say about social class?
In his works, Dickens often explores the themes of social class and inequality. He often portrays the struggles of the working class and the injustices of the upper classes. He also highlights the importance of education and opportunity for those in lower classes to rise up and improve their lives.
What are the social issues in Great Expectations?
Great Expectations explores a variety of social issues, including classism, poverty, and the power of money. It also examines the consequences of ambition and the importance of morality. The novel also touches on themes of justice, guilt, and redemption.

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Theme of Social Class in Great Expectations. (2018, May 21). Retrieved from

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